There is something oddly, distantly familiar with what he is doing.
John Tavares, the New York Islanders centre who was the NHL’s player of the month for January, is working the corners. He spins, he rolls off two checkers, he has his head raised like a cobra in search of opportunity. He works through traffic by keeping everything in so tight to his body they cannot stop him from slipping by. He sees an opening no one else has seen, passes quickly and, instantly, a goal is scored.
He is, of course, playing The National Game … but which one?
Tavares is only 21 years of age, and though ESPN recently ranked the “Top 25 NHL players under age of 25” and somehow left him off the list, he is today the talk of the league after scoring nine goals and 13 assists in only 13 games last month and rising into the top five in league scoring.
He is far, far from the fastest player in the game, and yet he is also unstoppable. He works corners as effectively as, but different from, the Sedin twins of the Vancouver Canucks. He has, as Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson “incredible hands and vision.”
Where does it come from? Winter or summer? Hockey rink or lacrosse box?
Both, the young rising star says. He grew up playing both sports, both exceptionally well. His uncle, also John Tavares, is one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time, a stubborn, strong man who protects the ball as well as any who have ever played he game and is, simply, deadly from anywhere around the net.
The slanders handed the Senators a 2-1 overtime loss on Friday night with Tavares earning first star honours.
The young John Tavares believes that lacrosse gave him talents that transferred perfectly to Canada’s better-known national game.