Tavares still looks exceptional

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

John Tavares remembers hearing the whispers last spring when the Ontario Hockey League declared him an exceptional player and thereby eligible for the draft.

"Stuff like I played for a good team and that was why I had good numbers," Tavares, selected first overall by the Oshawa Generals last May, said yesterday. "I think I have done well for my age and I have shown people I belong in this league. I think I have done a little better statistically than I expected, and it's disappointing we have not done better as a team, but that is process for a young team."

On a Generals club that has won just 12 of 48 games and is in last place in the OHL, Tavares has been a standout and gives the team hope. He won't turn 16 until September, yet has 32 goals and 20 assists in 45 games and is second in rookie scoring. The leader in that category -- Sergei Kostitsyn of the London Knights, who has 62 points in 43 games -- is 3 1/2 years older than Tavares.

What's encouraging for the Generals is the six-foot, 183-pound Tavares has not been getting by on talent alone. As with the majority of talented hockey players at any age, Tavares has an ability to learn quickly as he goes.

"He got off to a good start, and did a lot of things individually that a kid coming out of midget could do," Gens coach Randy Ladouceur said. "Then he hit a lull about 25 or 30 games in. I was using him too much, and teams were getting a second look at him. But what I have seen, and it is a great sign, is that he has adjusted. He has started to distribute the puck better. Guys at this age usually are chasing the puck, but he knows where it is going to go. He has a lot to work on in his own end, but he is a smart kid, no doubt about it."

Tavares won't play in the OHL all-star game tonight in Belleville but said he did not figure he would. One of his Oshawa roommates, Gens' leading scorer Peter Tsimikalis, will represent the team.

Meanwhile, construction of the Generals' new downtown rink is slightly ahead of schedule. Moving day for the Gens still is Nov. 1.

MLSEL BIDS FOR WORLD JUNIOR

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. has decided it will bid for the 2009 world junior championship, MLSEL executive Bob Hunter confirmed yesterday, with the Air Canada Centre and Ricoh Coliseum as host buildings.

Today is the deadline to submit a letter of intent to make a bid to Hockey Canada. Bid presentations will be made in April with Hockey Canada's board deciding in May on the site. Calgary and Edmonton will make a joint bid. Montreal, Ottawa and Saskatoon are interested as well.


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