Hockey

Generals select 14-year-old Tavares with No. 1 pick

The Oshawa Generals lived up to their promise, selecting 14-year-old prospect John Tavares with the first overall pick in the Ontario Hockey League's priority selection draft on Saturday.

Two days ago, the Generals announced they were going to pick Tavares, who turns 15 in September, when the league granted him exceptional underage player status earlier this week.

The 15-round OHL draft covers North American players born between Jan. 1, 1986 and Dec. 31, 1989.

Tavares had 91 goals and 167 points in 72 games with the Toronto Marlboros minor midget team in 2004-05. The six-foot-one forward also had 13 goals and 28 points in 20 games with Milton in the Ontario Jr. 'A' league.

Although he joins a franchise that launched the career of Hall of Fame defenceman Bobby Orr, he tried to distance himself from any comparisons to any players.

"I'm no Sidney Crosby or Bobby Orr. I'm John Tavares," he said before the draft.

He will not be the youngest player in OHL history. Orr and Denis Potvin were both younger than Tavares when they started in the OHL. Eric Lindros played two games for the Canadian national team as a 15-year-old.

Jason Spezza made headlines as a 15-year-old with the Brampton Battalion in 1998, when the league had a rule that allowed underage players to compete for their local teams.

"I think I'll be fine on the ice," said Tavares earlier this week. "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."

Orr was critical of the decision to include Tavares in this year's OHL draft.

In an interview on Friday, the former Boston Bruins star said that kids are too anxious to jump ahead and they should just slow down and enjoy the game.

All of the extra attention and pressure that comes with being a young player in the OHL might be too much for some to handle, he argued.

With the second pick, the Sarnia Sting selected defenceman Mark Katic of the Timmins Majors. The Saginaw Spirit took Stratford centre Zach Torquato third overall.

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

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