John Tavares: Hard Work.

"Maybe next year I'll even be Top 25," said this season's 12th-highest scorer at the break.

Some of the big league news from the All-Star Break includes some tinkering trades and Ryan Suter explicitly stating he won't re-sign with the Predators before the deadline (despite happy talk, that can't be good).

But for Islanders fans, John Tavares' media stint can only further reinforce confidence in the 21-year-old's future. What's scarier for opponents than an already immensely talented player using each summer to get better?

The relentless self-improver was asked about his much-lauded offseason work that has paid dividends this year:

"[After my rookie year] I started to really understand what I had to do specifically to improve my game and grow as a player, to figure out what it was going to take for me to reach another level," he added. "I have worked hard at it. I take a lot of pride in it – and I'm starting to see the results."

Indeed. And Jack Capuano isn't just blowing hometown smoke -- other execs, players and scouts have noticed the same attributes Capuano speaks of:

Capuano said he never talks to Tavares about his creativity or really anything that has to do with his offensive game; he mostly discusses defense with him.

Soon enough those discussions won't be necessary either.

"A lot of his chances stem from his defensive zone play," Capuano said. "How he comes under the puck, and how he's getting puck possession and odd-man rushes, it all stems from defense and he's doing a real good job. I think that's overlooked sometimes when you see his offensive numbers.

"He's always been an offensive guy, but playing that 200-foot game, playing away from the puck, he's really improved."

We talk about some of this so much that it's old hat, but for my money the evolution has still been remarkable.

There are a lot of other quotes -- from opponents and a linemate -- in that piece by Dan Rosen that makes it worth your time. Not trying to go fanboy on a player here, but when you're observing something special it's enhanced by getting a lot of perspectives on what's going on.

* * *

Elsewhere: The Sound Tigers returned to winning ways, putting them in first in the very tight Northeast Division.

We'll have Part 2 of our roundtable up later this morning, but feel free to use this post to share other topics, notes and All-Star links and such.

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