The Oshawa Generals really went all out to celebrate John Tavares' 15th birthday yesterday.
"Just Kool-Aid," Tavares' linemate, Cal Clutterbuck, said when asked to name the drink of choice.
Added Tavares' mother, Barb, "The joke is they are all going to take him to Chuck E. Cheese's."
Humour aside, the six-foot, 183-pound Tavares is about to grow up quickly. The Ontario Hockey League changed its draft rules to allow its first "exceptional player" to enter the league a year ahead of schedule.
So far, Tavares has lived up to the billing. He scored five goals in six pre-season games with the OHL's worst team from last season and will make his major junior regular season debut Friday in Kingston against the Frontenacs.
"On the ice, I've adjusted very well," the Oakville native said before his mother delivered a birthday dinner of veal cutlets to his billet's house, where he is staying with teammates Dale Mitchell and Peter Tsimikalis.
"Even scoring one or two (pre-season goals) would have been great. I'm playing with two great linemates (Clutterbuck and Justin Allen) and (coach) Randy (Ladouceur) is giving me the opportunity to play in all situations. I've capitalized so far."
Before training camp, Generals general manager Brad Selwood felt that 35 to 50 points from Tavares this season would have been outstanding. However, he couldn't help but re-evaluate after the first pre-season game.
"We said at the opening press conference we have to make sure we keep an eye on him and make sure he goes through the adjustment process properly and we meant all that," Selwood said.
"But oh my god ... the kid gets better every five minutes."
Tavares, who is expected to usher the Generals into their new rink next season, has a simple game plan.
"The pressure is obviously there, with all the hype they've been putting around me, but I feel most comfortable on the ice," he said. "When I'm there, I think about nothing else but the game."