Since John Tavares was taken by the New York Islanders with the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft he has been the face of the franchise. Over the last two seasons he’s also established himself as one of the best forwards in the NHL and with former captain Mark Streit gone, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Islanders name Tavares as their team captain.
Nothing has been announced yet and given that Tavares is still just 22 years old, there might be a bit of hesitation, but he definitely has some strong supporters.
“I think he’s ready,” 38-year-old goaltender Evgeni Nabokov told Newsday. “We knew last year that he was a leader, not just on the ice. He’s not extremely vocal, but he’s vocal when he needs to be. He’s a very mature guy for 22, and he’s our superstar.”
It helps that Tavares is a guy that can lead by example, and not just because of his offensive numbers, but also due to the work he puts into honing his craft. Tavares has an offseason training program that impresses his peers, such as Islanders forward Kyle Okposo, who wants to avoid another slow start this season.
“It really started clicking with me that I needed to take that next step, and Johnny ups his game every year,” Okposo said. “So we talked a lot about a bunch of different things, and I found someone to help me with some on-ice things the final month of the season. It’s no coincidence that was when I had my best games.”
Okposo and two young Islanders forwards, Ryan Strome and Casey Cizikas, also joined Tavares for a week of training this summer.
“We’ve got a good group of guys and they all know how hard John works at all aspects of his game,” Islanders GM Garth Snow said. “It’s no surprise to me that some of the guys want to train the way he does.”
When asked about the possibility of being named the team captain, Tavares emphasized the importance of everyone working together. After all, while he would consider it a great honor to wear the “C,” his goal is to help the team take another step forward after his first NHL playoff run.