Islanders thrilled with Tavares' arrival
Team's up-tempo style a good fit for NHL's top draft pick
Watching centre John Tavares slip on a New York Islanders jersey at Friday's NHL entry draft only added motivation for Josh Bailey and his teammates to work hard over the summer to get in the best shape possible.
Tavares was selected first overall at Montreal's Bell Centre after racking up 215 goals and 433 points in 247 Ontario Hockey League games for the Oshawa Generals and London Knights.
That kind of offensive talent would be welcomed by any NHL team and particularly the Islanders, who scored 201 goals last season, second fewest in the league.
Bailey, also a centre, played against Tavares in the OHL while a member of the Owen Sound Attack and Windsor Spitfires, and skated alongside him at the Canadian national junior team's selection camp last December in Ottawa.
"He brings so much to the table as a player and a person," Bailey told CBCSports.ca from Windsor, where he watched the draft from the backyard of a friend's house. "[Islanders coach Scott Gordon's] style is very up-tempo, high paced and that plays into John's hands."
Islanders forward Jon Sim, who has a season remaining on a three-year, $3 million US deal he signed in the summer of 2007, is excited about having Tavares in the fold.
He likes the confidence exhibited by the 18-year-old on the ice and recalls some of his big goals at the 2009 world junior hockey championship. Tavares finished second in tournament scoring with eight goals and 15 points in six games.
"He's obviously got a knack around the net, so he puts himself in the right areas," said the 32-year-old Sim, who took in Friday's draft at his off-season home outside New Glasgow, N.S.
"He's going to help our team, I think, right away."
Joining a team filled with talented youngsters such as Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau, Jeff Tambellini and Bailey should only help the even-keeled Tavares adjust to the rigours of the NHL, added Sim.
Last October, Bailey, 19, made the jump from junior to the NHL and registered 25 points in 68 contests.
"You hear so much from everyone going into [your first NHL training camp]. You really have to go through it to understand it and get to know for yourself," said Bailey, a native of Oshawa, Ont., who was drafted ninth overall by the Islanders last summer.
Sim believes Tavares will have little trouble adapting to NHL life, saying veterans like centre Doug Weight and himself will be there to guide the 2009 world junior MVP.
Despite an NHL-worst 26-47-9 record last season, Sim feels the Islanders are close to knocking on the door of the playoffs. New York has missed the post-season three of the last four years.
"We've had injuries the past couple of years," he said. "We had one guy [goalie Rick DiPietro] that missed all of last year who's probably our best player. If he's back and healthy [next season], I think we're right on the doorstep."
With Tavares on board, the Islanders' prospects seem a little brighter.