John Tavares and Matt Moulson are great friends from way back, room together on the road and have New York Islanders fans believing there is plenty of hope for the future.
And though their respective paths to the National Hockey League have roots in the Greater Toronto Area, how they came to make their Air Canada Centre debuts last night against the Maple Leafs couldn’t be more different.
Tavares is a 19-year-old wunderkind, a first overall pick who finally is taking his rightful place in the NHL after years of scrutiny and years of filling junior hockey nets. Moulson is 26, played minor hockey with the Leafs’ Matt Stajan and finally is finding his stride in the NHL after he was taken 263rd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003 and then failed to find a permanent NHL home with the Los Angeles Kings.
“In my dreams when I was four or five, it was in a Leafs uniform that I would be playing,” Moulson, a North York native, said. “It’s a big moment, probably one of the biggest of my career.
“It has been such a long road to get here. It’s exciting that (he and Tavares) can share it with each other.”
Tavares led the Islanders with 19 points (nine goals and 10 assists) in 23 games before last night, while Moulson had a team-high 10 goals and eight assists in 23 games. Though Tavares said it took him a few games to get accustomed to the top hockey league in the world, he has acquitted himself well.
“The strength and size of the guys, that was one thing I had to get used to,” Tavares said. “But now I think I am really starting to find my way. I know what I have to do to be successful. Overall, I think it has gone well, but I want to strive for more.”
In 2005-06, when Tavares was an OHL rookie with the Oshawa Generals, Moulson was finishing a four-year career at Cornell. As Tavares ripped up the OHL for four seasons, Moulson bounced back and forth between the Kings and their AHL affiliate. Moulson signed with the Isles in July, not long after the club picked Tavares.
For years, Tavares and Moulson have trained together in the off-season. Now, they’re on the same line in the NHL.
“I saw how hard he worked,” Tavares, who was born in Mississauga and raised in Oakville, said. “He never took one day off because he knew how slim his chances were. To see him do well now, as a friend and a teammate, it is a great story.”