Tavares flattered by Burke's interest

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

MONTREAL — As the hours tick down on the biggest moment of his young hockey life, John Tavares admits to being flattered by Brian Burke’s attempts to make him a Maple Leaf.

“To see somebody publicly state how much he wants you like that, it makes you feel good,” Tavares said yesterday as he prepared himself to be one of the top picks in tonight’s 2009 NHL entry draft at the Bell Centre.

Burke confirmed again last night that his efforts to move up in the draft order continue to be scuttled. The New York Islanders, he said, seem uninterested in moving out of the No. 1 slot while the Tampa Bay Lightning, holding the No. 2 selection, want a package that includes Luke Schenn, a player Burke refuses to move.

“There’s a good chance this kid will be the captain of our team in a few years,” Burke said of Schenn.

Despite how dim the prospects of a Tavares-to-Toronto scenario seem right now, Burke said he will not give up on attempting to move up from the No. 7 slot to land Tavares.

“Not until the kid’s name is called out (on the draft floor),” he proclaimed. “In hockey terms, we’re still early in the process.”

Having grown up in Oakville as a Leafs fan, Tavares said he was caught off-guard when Burke, during his end-of-season press conference two months ago, publicly proclaimed his intentions to trade up in the draft to select the high-scoring centre, who played most of his junior career with the Oshawa Generals before being traded to the London Knights last season.

“Obviously, I was shocked when I heard,” Tavares said. “But in a good way. My thoughts were on the (OHL) playoffs when, suddenly, those comments were made.”

Tavares is careful not to show outward favouritism towards any NHL team — even the Leafs — when it comes to a potential new hockey home.

A handful of his friends back home, however, are not nearly as politically correct and have been quite vocal as to where they would like to see him end up.

“A few of my buddies want me there,” he said of Toronto.

Tavares’ first memory of watching the Leafs?

“During the (1993 playoffs), I remember Wayne Gretzky high-sticking Doug Gilmour,” he said.

A moment Leafs fans would rather forget.


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