The Kids Start Off Alright


Written on 10/05/2009 by Jim Cerny

John Tavares (photo left) did not disappoint in his NHL debut on Saturday night. The first overall pick in this past NHL Draft---and annointed savior of the Islanders franchise---notched a pair of points, including his first NHL goal, against Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum.

If you haven't yet seen Tavares' goal, check it out here. He displays a quick set of hands, turning a broken play into a big goal. True goal scorers---whether they have played ten years in the NHL or ten minutes---instinctively know where to position themselves to get the prime scoring opportunities.

Rangers coach John Tortorella says that, "the puck just follows these kinds of finds them all of the time."

John Tavares is that kind of player. Right spot, natural instinct, great hands.

Good for the Islanders and their fans to have landed Tavares following years of misery on The Island.

Bad for the Islanders that not long before Tavares and his 'mates took to the ice on Saturday, team owner Charles Wang spoke in bitterly disappointed tones that the Town of Hempstead had not met his October 3rd deadline to resolve whether or not his planned Lighthouse Project---which includes a new arena for the Islanders---would go forth. In grave tones, Wang spoke of options such as selling the team or relocating it to another city.

Veiled threats? Perhaps so. But threats nonetheless as far as the dispirited fans on the Isles are concerned.

Chris Botta over at NYI Point Blank and BD Gallof at The Hockey Independent are the two reporters who have covered this story the best---really for years now---and the best part is they usually offer up very different views on the goings on. That makes for some fun reading, while also providing a wider scope of opinion. Go check them out if you have not already.

Anyway, getting off topic here, it's a shame that Tavares' debut was pretty much overshadowed by arena politics. As Arthur Staple wrote in Newsday, "I went to a hockey game and a press conference broke out."

Good stuff that Tavares scored a goal and an assist in his NHL debut, even if he failed on a couple of other prime scoring chances and muffed his shootout attempt.

And JT was not the only youngster making a positive early impression over the weekend. Both Victor Hedman, the second overall pick right behind Tavares, and Matt Duchene, chosen No. 3 this past June by Colorado, had nice starts, as well.

Though he was a minus-two in Tampa's season-opening 6-3 loss to Atlanta on Saturday night, Hedman played confidently, and he played a lot. Coach Rick Tocchet used Hedman in all game situations, and the kid led the Lightning with nearly 27 minutes worth of ice-time. He also picked up his first NHL point, assisting on the Lightning's first goal of the season, and was second on the team with five shots on goal.

Duchene, one of two 18 year-olds in the Avs lineup along with Ryan O'Reilly, earned an assist in his NHL debut last Thursday, and played 15:29 in Saturday's win over the Canucks. O'Reilly, the Avs second rounder this year, has seen far less of the ice than Duchene, but he also earned an assist in his NHL debut against the Sharks last Thursday.

Another member of the 2009 draft class---Atlanta's Evander Kane, selected fourth overall---made a neat play to also earn an assist in his first NHL contest on Saturday. Kane stole the puck at the Lightning blueline, burst past the defenseman to drive towards the net. Though goaltender Mike Smith poked the puck off Kane's stick, Rich Peverly was there to clean up for the Thrashers and hand Kane a point.

Two other kids have impressed right from the get-go, Philly's James Van Riemsdyk (first round in 2007) and Michael Del Zotto (first round in 2008) of the Rangers. Van Riemsdyk, who is in the perfect situation, I think, surrounded by such a deep and talented group of teammates, has three points already in his first two games. In Saturday's win over the Devils, he notched a pair of assists and was a plus-three.

Del Zotto is clearly still adjusting to the speed and intensity of the pro game, but there is no denying his offensive skills. The 19 year-old defenseman is playing on the Rangers' top power play unit, and looks comfortable doing so. He also picked up his first NHL goal on Saturday in the final minute of the second period against Ottawa. You can check out Del Zotto's first goal here.

Early samplings for sure, but so far, the kids are looking alright at the NHL level.

If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to our feed

No Comment

Post a Comment