Months of waiting finally came to an end Friday night when the New York Islanders
selected London Knights star John Tavares
with the first pick of the 2009 Entry Draft.
"Our goal was to find the best player in this draft that will become an integral piece to us winning a Stanley Cup," GM Garth Snow
said. "John has been a game-breaking type of player at every level he has played and will add a scoring touch to our lineup."
The dynamic center led the Ontario Hockey League with 58 goals and 104 points in 2008-09, was the MVP and best forward at the 2009 World Junior Championships and has been NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked player all season.
"To finally have this come true and be part of the National Hockey League, and especially in Long Island, where the building process with a young team is starting, to join a group of players there and the community and the fans, I can't wait to get started," Tavares told NHL.com.
The identity of the Islanders' selection was a closely-guarded secret from the night the Isles won the draft lottery in mid-April until Snow made the announcement at the Bell Centre.
The Islanders considered selecting either Tavares, Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman
or Brampton Battalion center Matt Duchene
. All three visited Long Island and met with Snow and owner Charles Wang.
Snow had said he was pretty sure Tavares would be the choice immediately after the Islanders won the lottery, and that nothing between then and now swayed him.
"We obviously liked John right from the beginning," Snow told NHL.com. "We followed through with the process that we've been executing the last three years. It just validated our belief that John was the right player for our organization."
Tavares gives the Islanders the No. 1 center they need to continue their rebuilding process. They have a number of good young forwards, led by Josh Bailey
, last year's first-round pick, Kyle Okposo
, Frans Nielsen
and Jesse Joensuu
. But the Isles finished 29th in the League with an average of 2.42 goals per game.
Tavares should help them change that. He broke Wayne Gretzky
's OHL scoring record for 16-year-olds with 72 goals two seasons ago, and his 215 goals is the all-time OHL record.
"He's a dynamic hockey player," Snow said. "He's a very special kid, a good kid. When you get a chance to add a piece of the puzzle like we did today, it's a good thing for the organization and for our fans."