Branch denies Tavares rumour

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

There's a rumour out there in hockeyland that David Branch would like to quash.

Branch, the OHL commissioner, said yesterday there is no truth to speculation the league will announce on Monday that 14-year-old star John Tavares can be picked first overall in the OHL draft next Saturday. The Oshawa Generals own the first pick.

Branch said he has been contacted by several media outlets in the past few days regarding an alleged announcement.

"We do not have anything in place for that," Branch said. "There is no planned announcement on Monday. Someone is trying to create a situation for whatever reason."

But the league still is grappling with the issue of making exceptions at that age for what it calls exceptional players. Whether the OHL can or will shoehorn a rule into place so Tavares can become a member of the league next season remains to be seen.

In late March, the OHL came under considerable fire when Branch acknowledged the league was throwing around the idea of letting the first four teams in the draft -- the non-playoff clubs, in other words --take 14-year-old players. But after a public backlash, the OHL's board of governors did not even vote on the issue.

A member of the Toronto Marlies minor midgets, Tavares, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound centre, also had 23 points in 16 regular-season games for the tier-II Milton Icehawks this season. He has drawn lots of interest from the United States Hockey League and the OHL has no wish to see him play there instead. Tavares will be 15 in September.


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