-- John Tavares
has been the best player on the ice in many of the New York Islanders
' first 41 games of the season -- for either team.
So it really was no surprise that Tavares learned Thursday that he will be the Isles' lone representative at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, to be played Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
It's likely that this will be the first of many All-Star appearances for Tavares, who leads the Islanders with 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) and extended his point streak to seven games in Thursday night's 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers
at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
"It's exciting … I got the news this afternoon," Tavares said. "I'm definitely thrilled about it and I'm really honored. I'm looking forward to the weekend. It's definitely a great feeling.
2012 NHL ALL-STAR GAME
NHL releases 2012 All-Star roster
By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
The NHL added 36 veterans and 12 rookies to the group of players that will skate at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game. READ MORE ›
"I think probably a lot of the guys felt I had a good chance … I told them they were going to jinx it. I just play the game the way you're supposed to play it, I think. If these things come along, it's a great honor. It's something I looked up to as a kid. I didn't think about it a whole lot, but it's just a great feeling."
With the game being played in Ottawa, Tavares is returning to a place where he's experienced success in the past. Three years ago, the 21-year-old helped Canada win its fifth straight gold medal at the World Junior Championship. Tavares was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament after notching 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in just six games.
"I haven't even thought about that, but I had a great World Junior there," Tavares said. "Ottawa's a special place to me in a lot of ways and obviously the capital of where I'm from. It's definitely exciting to go home and hopefully I'll have some friends and family in the stands for the game. It'll be great."
Tavares learned of his selection Thursday afternoon. He received a phone call from assistant coach Doug Weight
, who was Tavares' captain with the Islanders for the first two seasons of his career. Tavares lived in a guest home on Weight's property during that time and learned a lot from Weight about life as a professional hockey player -- both on and off the ice.
While there has been plenty to like about Tavares' game since scoring in his NHL debut back in October 2009 (he's on pace to lead the Isles in scoring for a third consecutive season), it has grown by leaps and bounds since then. He's visibly bigger and stronger, a direct reason why his offensive production continues to increase.
And when you consider he's still only 21 years of age, there's simply no telling of just how dominant Tavares could be in the years ahead.
"I've felt I've gotten better every year, every game," Tavares said. "I feel like I'm just getting to know the League a lot better. I feel my game is evolving -- just me as a person -- and I think it's all translating every day and coming together year, every day. It's another step for me. It's exciting to know when you're recognized like this, you know you're doing some good things and you know you're making an impact out there. That's what I'm trying to do."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL