Tavares expected to lead

TODD SAELHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Some say he lacks the off-ice polish of Sidney Crosby at a similar age.

And maybe his finish on the ice isn't quite as prolific as the Kid's when he was just 17.

But the expectations are the same for super-phenom John Tavares as the expected offensive leader for the 2008 edition of Canada's squad, even if it might not include being the leader on the scoresheet en route to a gold medal at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.

"Definitely, you have to be patient," said Tavares, the Canadian Hockey League's leading scorer with 68 points and the NHL's next best-bet superstar. "I always want to do what I do best, but one thing I've learned is to contribute in other ways."

Step one for a teen yet to earn his driver's licence is to make the national team after being a surprise cut from last year's club, which was also coached by Craig Hartsburg.

"It was tough getting cut -- I had to learn to deal with it and find some positives out of it," Tavares said. "Last year, there were four or five of us under-agers. Knowing and having played with a lot of the Super Series guys helps this year.

"The experience helps a lot. And I learned a lot last year about being prepared mentally. I hope to do my best and make the team."

And recognizing he's not simply here because of his scoring prowess takes a bit of pressure off Tavares, as well.

Although he is the most highly regarded player in the Canuck camp this week at Father David Bauer Arena -- and is expected to lead the team in the Czech Republic with his shooting and playmaking skills --Tavares is being identified as a well-rounded junior player.

Most importantly, Hartsburg sees that in the Oakville, Ont., product.

"He is willing to do whatever it takes to be part of the team," Hartsburg said.

"If he doesn't score 10 goals for us and lead the team that way, nobody should question John Tavares.

"Even if doesn't score a goal, he is there to help the team."


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