Still 27 months from his NHL draft day, John Tavares already had the hockey world abuzz.
The volume was just cranked up a little louder last night at the Civic Centre.
The Oshawa Generals star broke Wayne Gretzky's record for most goals by a 16-year-old when he notched his second of the night and 71st of the season at 14:05 of the second period in an eventual 7-4 loss to the 67's.
"I'm only 16 and to accomplish something like this, I'm pretty proud of myself," said Tavares. "It's pretty exciting, it was nice to get it."
The crowd of 9,501 acknowledged the accomplishment with a standing ovation.
While Tavares wound up with two goals and two assists, not to be outdone was 67's centre Logan Couture. Selected 11 spots behind Tavares in the 2005 OHL priority draft, Couture scored the winning goal on a deflection at 4:59 of the third period. He already had three assists to that point.
Ottawa's Jamie McGinn scored his 40th of the season 4:32 into the night completed his hat trick with two more power-play goals by the 12:41 mark of the first. He also had an assist to finish with four points.
Thomas Nesbitt, Brett Liscomb and Mattieu Methot had the other 67's goals. Derek Joslin had four assists.
With the victory, the 67's kept alive their chances of finishing sixth in the conference and a first-round playoff set with the Mississauga IceDogs. Another Ottawa loss or Sudbury win means the 67's will play the Belleville Bulls in a series likely to start a week from Monday in Belleville.
Meanwhile, just 5:08 into his 65th game of the season, Tavares grabbed a slice of Ontario Hockey League history when he propelled a backhand by linemate Brett MacLean its final inch or two over the 67's goal line.
Tavares even resembled a young Gretzky in celebration as he touched one knee to the ice and delivered an emphatic fist pump.
He was considerably more subdued, appearing almost sheepish, after setting the new standard. Tavares scored that one after attempting a backhand pass into the slot that went off Ottawa defenceman Jakub Vojta and came right back to him.
Goalie Brady Morrison flipped the souvenir puck to Tavares after the goal.
Blueliner Joe Grimaldi was among the 67's who saluted Tavares, tapping his stick on the ice while the Oshawa centre was being congratulated at the bench by his teammates.
The accomplishment adds to the resume of a player who won't be available in the entry draft until the spring of 2009.
If the 6-foot, 183-lb. Tavares was eligible this June, one scout was asked prior to last night's game, how high would he be picked?
"No. 1," was the immediate answer. "There's no doubt. He has such a great hockey sense and an ability to get open, and he plays with an edge.
"I don't know what weakness he has, if he has any at all."
While Tavaras had been held off the scoresheet his previous outing against St. Mike's, he had scored seven goals in the three previous games to that.
Tavaras and the Generals are back at the Civic Centre today for a 2 p.m. rematch.
ICE CHIPS: The first intermission of today's game will feature a five-shot shootout between entrepreneur/goalie Frank D'Angelo and 67's owner/sniper Jeff Hunt. For every goal Hunt gets, D'Angelo will donate $1,000 to the 67's Foundation, which benefits local charities. For every save made by D'Angelo, Hunt will make a $1,000 donation to the breast cancer foundation.