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Tavares knows what is awaiting Connor McDavid

Friday, 02.22.2013 / 9:00 AM
Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com Staff Writer

The fact Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid already is under the microscope as a 16-year-old is pretty impressive when you consider he's still more than two years away from hearing his name called as the potential top pick at the 2015 NHL Draft.

New York Islanders center John Tavares knows the feeling.

Like Tavares in 2005, McDavid was granted exceptional-player status by Hockey Canada last year, making him eligible for the 2012 Ontario Hockey League draft as a 15-year-old. He was taken by the Erie Otters with the No. 1 pick.

As it turns out, Tavares, McDavid and 2014 draft-eligible defenseman Aaron Ekblad, taken No. 1 by the Barrie Colts in the 2011 OHL draft, are the only players to be awarded exceptional-player status over the past decade.

Tavares was selected No. 1 by the Oshawa Generals in 2005, then was taken No. 1 by the New York Islanders at the 2009 NHL Draft. Now 22, Tavares recalled his days in Oshawa and was asked to provide McDavid with some advice in what surely will be a memorable journey.

"There are a lot of things I learned in my time in the OHL and playing at a young age," Tavares told NHL.com. "Obviously, having a lot of hype and attention is one thing. I was lucky enough to be around [McDavid] last summer in the [Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Camp], so I got to talk to him."

Tavares met McDavid at the five-day camp in July at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. The event, held by the NHL Players' Association, gives 40-plus bantam-aged players an opportunity to learn from some of the NHL's brightest stars.

"It's like an orientation camp of what it takes to be a pro, and we teach them what to expect," Tavares said. "I never had that. It's a great idea because it prepares them for the next step -- the practicing every day and the lifestyle you'll live. You understand what to do off the ice and the attention you'll receive."

Tavares said he was very impressed by McDavid. The feeling was mutual.

"It was good experience for me just being around the pros and talking to guys like Gary Roberts, Tavares and Taylor Hall," McDavid told NHL.com.

McDavid also had some funny stories to tell.

"[Tavares and Hall] were the coaches for that camp, and during our first night they came out bowling with us," McDavid said. "When I saw [Tavares], I wanted to get a picture with him so I asked my mom if she would take the picture. But John and Taylor were standing together so they both came into the picture. I asked Hall, 'Oh, do you mind if it's just me and John?' It was a pretty funny moment I'll never forget."

For the record, McDavid did get his photo with Tavares, and Hall wasn't offended.

Having lived through similar experiences, Tavares has an idea what the future could hold for McDavid.

"You can tell why he's a special hockey player even before he steps on the ice," Tavares said. "You see his passion and drive to be the best, and I know at times the attention can be a lot, especially at a young age, because people obviously believe you can do some great things and you have the potential to be a great hockey player."

McDavid is close to duplicating Tavares' first OHL season. In 2005-06, Tavares led OHL rookies with 45 goals and finished second with 77 points (one behind Sergei Kostitsyn of the London Knights). Tavares had a minus-13 rating in 65 games.

McDavid leads all OHL rookies with 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) with a minus-17 rating in 54 games. He was the youngest player to compete in the 10-year history of the Subway Super Series when he skated for Team OHL against Russia on Nov. 8 in Guelph, Ontario. He also had six goals and nine points for Team Ontario at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

"We never really got into the fact we both entered the OHL as underage players, but [Tavares] understood my situation since he's been there and lived through it," McDavid said. "He was just trying to help me out, give me tips. There's a lot I can take away from that."

Tavares said, "Things can be negative at times just being around the [OHL] for so long … everyone starts to nitpick a little bit, so I think it's important to surround yourself with the right people. Obviously, he's had that with his parents, and I know he trains with Gary Roberts in the summer, so he has the right people around him to keep pushing and making sure he sticks to the right path."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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