Tavares in top gear

ROGER LAJOIE, SPECIAL TO SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:52 AM ET

OSHAWA -- After four years in Oshawa, John Tavares is no longer in the Ontario Hockey League for a long time -- he's here for a good time.

And Tavares -- who celebrated his 18th birthday last Saturday -- is having a great time in the early going in what will surely be his final season of junior hockey.

"It's been a lot of fun so far, my teammates have been great and we're having some success," Tavares said. "I'm looking forward to a good season here in Oshawa."

The good times kept rolling last night for Tavares who had one of four unanswered third-period goals for the Generals in a 6-4 win over the Niagara IceDogs.

Tavares started the season with a four-point game in Sudbury and followed that with another two points Thursday in St. Catharines. Given the fact that he's already had a 72-goal season in the OHL, what kind of numbers can be expected by a motivated player who is finally in his NHL draft year?

"I'll let the numbers take care of themselves," Tavares says. "My goal here is to help my teammates, work on my game and help us go as far as we possibly can.

"It's hard not to think about the draft and the future, but I believe if I concentrate on my game and continue to improve, the rest will fall into place."

Oshawa general manager/coach Chris DePiero is a big believer in his marquee player, who put up an astounding 157 goals and 329 points in his first three seasons.

"John has been nothing short of outstanding so far this season," DePiero says. "He came to camp in terrific shape and he's been a great leader and role model for the younger players.

"There's a lot of pressure on him this being his draft year and the expectations of perhaps going No. 1 overall, but he has lived with pressure since he got here. I can't say enough about how he's been so far, he's a special, special player."

Some pre-season predictions have the Generals near the bottom of the standings, leading to speculation Tavares could be dealt down the road. But Tavares feels the Generals will be a lot better than many think and he has the personal motivation of chasing the Generals franchise point record of 413, held by Marc Savard.

"We have a good nucleus here and Chris has done a good job keeping everybody on the same page and putting systems into place," Tavares said.

"Like I said, the future will take care of itself and right now I'm focused on being an Oshawa General and helping this team win."

The Generals will also be reconnecting with their past in the very near future.

The OHL announced yesterday that it will retire Bobby Orr's No. 2 this season.

Orr's number will be raised to the rafters at General Motors Centre on Nov. 27 before the Generals host the Peterborough Petes.

The Hall of Fame defenceman, who wore No. 4 once he graduated to the NHL, joined the Generals as a 14-year-old in 1962 and later helped the team capture the OHL championship in 1966.

In four seasons with Oshawa, Orr compiled 278 points in 194 games.


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