and John Tavares
knew each other long before each arrived on Long Island in 2009. But it wasn't until then that they both became New York Islanders
that they actually wound up playing together for keeps.
Tavares, the top pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, grew up playing hockey and lacrosse with Chris Moulson, Matt's younger brother, in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, Ont. The families became friends, and the two spent plenty of time getting to know each other during summer workouts and games.
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Fast forward to the summer of 2009. By then, Tavares was the most dangerous sniper in junior hockey and the first player picked in the draft, while Moulson was a good minor-league scorer who couldn't break into the Los Angeles Kings
' lineup. Islanders GM Garth Snow
signed Moulson as a free agent, and then-coach Scott Gordon
noticed during training camp that the two had instant chemistry.
Six months later, Tavares was a member of the NHL's All-Rookie team, and Moulson had surprised everyone by scoring 30 goals. With Tavares as his center, Moulson improved to 31 goals last season -- making him one of only a handful of players who came into 2011-12 off consecutive 30-goal seasons.
There's nothing about Moulson's game that stands out -- he's not terribly big, not terribly fast, and he doesn’t have a booming shot. What he does have, according to Tavares, is a knack for finding the net.
"He’s so good at sniffing around the net and finding those pucks,” Tavares said. "He's a really good player. He doesn't wow you, but he makes the plays and he knows how to get it done. I've loved playing with him for the last couple of years."
The feeling is undoubtedly mutual. When Moulson became the first player this season to score four goals in a game, which he did on Dec. 3 in Dallas, Tavares assisted on three of them. Of the 15 goals Moulson had scored by Dec. 20, Tavares had an assist on 12.
"Getting open for Johnny or [linemate PA Parenteau
], I pride myself on getting the job done," Moulson said. "A lot of that is making sure I'm in the right place."
The two will have plenty of time to work on that. Moulson is in the first of a three-year contract, while Tavares, now in the final season of his entry-level deal, signed a six-year extension this summer -- assuring that they'll be able to work on that chemistry for years to come.