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Weight guiding Tavares through his debut season

Friday, 03.05.2010 / 2:00 PM / Hockey's Finest Presented by Army

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Weight guiding Tavares through his debut season
Veteran Doug Weight remembers being a 19-year-old rookie, and is lending his experience to help John Tavares
It's was 20 years ago when a 19-year-old named Doug Weight had his name called by the New York Rangers during the second round of the 1990 Entry Draft.

Weight, who had played two collegiate seasons at Lake Superior State University, was going to be on his own in one of the biggest cities in the world. He was going to need help adjusting to life in the big city.

Fortunately, when he joined the Rangers a year later, he would be helped along by some of the biggest names in the sport.

"I had a great group of veterans in New York," said Weight, now captain of the New York Islanders. "I still remain close with Brian Leetch. He really took me under his wing. The list goes on with that team. I was very fortunate coming into a veteran team and having guys take care of me. I learned a lot."

This season on Long Island, Weight is doing his best to pass on that acquired knowledge to rookie center John Tavares. The 39-year-old Weight was paired with the 19-year-old Tavares -- the No. 1 selection in the 2009 Entry Draft -- when the Islanders broke for training camp last September and immediately developed a friendship.

In fact, Tavares moved into Weight's home when the team returned to Long Island. He stayed there for about two months.

Well, sort of.

"We roomed in camp when we went to Saskatoon," Weight told NHL.com. "From there, we hit it off real well. He came into my house with me for about eight weeks. He was comfortable with it, my wife was comfortable with it and the kids loved it. It was working out well and there's a little guest house on our property that ended up opening up. Him and Matt Moulson moved in there, 50 yards from my front door. He gets his own driveway and his own mailbox.

"Whenever he wants to come over, he pops in. I think it's good for a guy like John, especially the amount of pressure with being the first overall pick. The one piece of advice I gave him in the summer was you come in shape and you come quiet. He did that."

He certainly did, as Tavares had 10 goals by the first week of December to help keep the Isles in playoff contention. The Mississauga, Ont., native has relished the opportunity to learn from Weight on and off the ice this season.

"He's been great since I was drafted," Tavares said. "I live 20 feet from him. All year, he's been there for me whenever I've needed him."

Weight and Tavares met before the latter was even drafted by the Islanders. After winning the draft lottery in April, Isles GM Garth Snow spent the next two months meeting and scouting top prospects. With Tavares scheduled to visit Long Island, Snow arranged for Weight and the teenager to have breakfast. It was the start of what appears to be a long friendship.

"I got to meet a lot of people in the organization and I got to see the rink and a little bit of Long Island," Tavares said. "I had breakfast with Doug Weight. It was a good experience for me and a good opportunity to check out Long Island and get to know Garth a little bit, and (Isles owner) Mr. (Charles) Wang. I had a good time."

Tavares entered the real world that June, when the Islanders grabbed him with the first pick in the draft. After a record-setting junior career that saw him score 215 goals, he headed for Long Island with tremendous expectations. On top of that, he'd deal with things off the ice he never had faced before. That's where Weight came in.

"I remember being 20 years old in New York," Weight said. "You have rent, and you're writing checks for the first time. You get in these habits where you're eating wrong. I'm glad that we can be a part of that. He doesn't have to worry about everything else. He's got some people in his life helping him and he can focus on the hockey side of it."

The second half of the season hasn't been kind to Tavares, as he was held without a goal for the final 14 games before the Olympic break. Since the calendar changed to 2010, Tavares has scored only once. It's times such as these where the rookie can turn to Weight for advice.

"The constant reminder is it's a long season," Weight said. "It's a different type of strength up here. The speed and strength at the NHL level is that every kid coming in notices, including myself 20 years ago. The great thing about John is he's an intelligent kid and he knows that's what's happening. He's hard on himself and he expects a lot from himself every day. He wants to be the best player on the ice every night, but he knows he's going to get stronger. What you have to remember is he is 19. I try to keep him loose. He won't even remember his first year."

Considering how much Weight has done for Tavares, that's a little hard to believe, just as it's hard to believe how well the latter has carried himself despite being six months shy of his 20th birthday.

"He's a huge piece of this franchise," Weight said. "Amazingly, he's handled everything like a champ."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter at: @BComptonNHL.
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