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Tavares A Presence At Islanders Camp

Tavares setting the pace for the Islanders at Training Camp

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

There was a notable absence at last year's New York Islanders Training Camp. 

While John Tavares went out to win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey with Team Canada, the captain's stall at Northwell Health Ice Center sat vacant for the first two weeks of camp. It's not that the Islanders didn't work without their best player, it's just that something was missing. Doug Weight summed it up best: a presence. 

"He's a pulse, he's the energy," Weight said. "It's not that everybody doesn't work as hard, but it's just that thing he has, that drive… If I forget to blow the whistle at the end of that one-on-one drill, I look down and he's still making 12 moves and banging and the D is like 'why are we still going I think the drill is over.'"

Not for Tavares. Not for the guy pushing the pace in practice. 

Video: Tavares Scores OT Winner At Coliseum

Weight knows Tavares as well as anyone in their eight years together with the team, two as teammates and landlord/tenant and six as coach and player. He said that the work ethic is genuine and that relentlessness is just John being John. 

"He doesn't take a break and it's that thing," Weight said. "It's almost as if somebody else did that, you'd look at the guy like 'oh what are you doing?' But it's not phony, it's sincere it's just a quality and it's pretty special."

With that amount of focus and drive, Weight said Tavares will have no problems playing through questions about his contract status. That's because after eight years, six seasons of at least 25-goals, a few OT heroics and countless practices, watching Tavares is normal for Weight. 

For the first timers in camp like Scott Eansor - the Seattle Thunderbirds co-captain who inked a one-year contract with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in July - it's an eye-opener, even with some previous insight from co-captain in Seattle, Mathew Barzal.

"I had an idea of how hard he would work, but coming in here. It's actually more," Eansor said. "He never stops moving. He's always doing something for is body, or to make him better. He's just on a mission."

Tavares' way extends to off the ice. He's so strict about his nutrition that he reportedly once brought kale chips to the Islanders' Super Bowl party. 

"It seems to be a common theme among not even the top leaders in our game, but the top players in our game, they put that time and effort into their game away from the rink," said Andrew Ladd. "There's so many things that go into what we do. Nutrition, what he's putting into his body and he pays close attention to all those things. As a teammate you see and respect what he does."

Ladd's played with some of the game's notorious workers, like Rod Brind'Amour - who once had to be locked out of the gym - Jonathan Toews - nicknamed Captain Serious - and Duncan Keith - who has averaged over 31 minutes per game in the 2015 playoffs. He said Tavares is in that tier of workers. 

Tweet from @NYIslanders: .@91Tavares ������ #IsItOctoberYet pic.twitter.com/0KmcwQNvZY

Eansor has seen the extra work in practice after a few days of camp, but he was struck by Tavares' preparation for Sunday's preseason game against the Flyers. That was a big game for Eansor, who is at his first NHL training camp, and the four-time all-star across the room is taking it just as seriously. 

"He was in the zone the whole time," Eansor said. "It's good to see how serious he takes it. He's been in the league for so long and he takes a preseason game like regular season game."

Judging by Tavares' two-goal game, including the OT winner, the captain wasn't taking the day off. Because it's not just Training Camp or preseason to him, it's another chance to work and improve another aspect of his game.

"He's a presence," Weight said. "That's what great players are, great people and he has that presence and respect and people want to follow him."

Play to the whistles, right? 

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