Aspiring NHLer John Tavares won't have to stray far from Toronto to begin the next chapter of his promising hockey career.
The talented Marlie minor midget forward will be selected first overall by the Oshawa Generals in Saturday's Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
"We're totally convinced he's the right person, and I emphasize that he's a person first," Generals general manager Brad Selwood said at a news conference on Thursday. "John is a gifted individual who will have a tremendous impact in the OHL.
"This is great news for our teams, our fans, and the city of Oshawa."
The Generals, who finished with a league-worst 15-48-3-2 record this season, will make it official when selections begin at 9 a.m. ET.
Tavares, 14, was granted exceptional player status by the league on Wednesday, thus making him eligible for the draft.
However, he will not be the youngest player in OHL history, nor will he be the first to play at a high level at a young age.
Former NHL stars Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin were both younger than Tavares when they started playing in the OHL.
As well, free-agent NHL forward Eric Lindros played two games for the Canadian national team as a 15-year-old, and Florida Panther Nathan Horton played Jr. C hockey at 13.
"I think I'll be fine on the ice," Tavares said. "I've already experienced playing with kids a lot older than me, up to 20 years old.
"I think off the ice, making the transition from my family to living with another family, will be the biggest transition for me."
The six-foot-one-inch Tavares, who turns 15 on Sept. 27, scored 91 goals and 158 points in 72 games with the Marlies this past season.
He added 13 goals and 28 points in 20 games for the Milton IceHawks of the Provincial Jr. A Hockey League.
"I don't want to put too much pressure on myself to turn this team around right away but I expect us to become a winning franchise in the next couple of years," said Tavares. "I'm no Sidney Crosby or Bobby Orr, I'm John Tavares.
"I'm not expecting to score 150 points next year. I'm just coming here to help the team win."
The Generals plan to move into a new 5,400-seat arena in 2006 and bid for the Memorial Cup in 2008.
"A player of John's capabilities only comes along every once in awhile," said team owner John Davies. "You recognize you have a unique hockey talent, but John is not going to be able to carry the franchise on his shoulders."
with files from Canadian Press