The decision was an easy one for Brad Selwood.
Though his star player, John Tavares, was cleared to play last Friday after recovering from a knee injury, Selwood, the general manager and head coach of the Oshawa Generals, kept Tavares out of the lineup for the club's last two pre-season games.
"I think he has a spot on this team," Selwood said with a chuckle.
One of the prevailing questions this season in the Ontario Hockey League is what exactly Tavares will do to follow up his outstanding rookie season. Tavares, who turned 16 yesterday, scored 45 goals and had 32 assists in 65 games, which would have been nice numbers for a seasoned OHL veteran, let alone a 15-year-old.
It's an anxious and excited Tavares who will hit the ice tomorrow night at St. Michael's Arena against the Majors in the Gens' season opener. The Majors open tonight in Barrie against the Colts.
Tavares has not played any significant hockey since suffering a sprained knee at the national under-18 selection camp in July in Calgary. He is bound to be like a caged dog on a piece of meat tomorrow night.
"I did a lot on my own and did a lot of thinking about myself," Tavares said of his recovery. "It gave me time to focus. When I just sat and thought about things, I just realized what kind of future I could have."
Tavares, whose first desire is to help the Generals return to the playoffs, believes he can top the 50-goal mark this season.
So does Selwood.
"I would not be shocked with 65, 70 goals," Selwood said. "Nothing would surprise me. He wants to be more of a complete player. What I like is his attitude: 'Okay, I scored 45 goals, forget it, that's done.' "
Tavares is a big reason why a couple of OHL GMs told the Toronto Sun this week they expect the Generals to be a sleeper pick in the Eastern Conference. Most observers figure the conference title will be won by Kingston or Belleville.
A solid season is integral for the Gens, who will move into their new arena in early November. Oshawa is going to make a bid for the 2008 Memorial Cup and the Gens making the playoffs is not an issue.
"I haven't brought it up, not even talking about (the possibility of) missing them," Selwood said.