John Tavares: "I've worked very hard for this"
In the second installment of our conversations with the draft's top three players, we check in with forward John Tavares. The sharpshooter is still considered by many to be the draft's top player and the conventional wisdom has him being picked by the Islanders with the No. 1 overall selection. Still, there are some who believe defenseman Victor Hedman will be taken first as questions have surfaced about Tavares' skating and commitment to defense. If that happens, the Lightning would have a chance to select the high-profile center. He was in Tampa earlier this month with Hedman and Matt Duchene.
Are you a two-way player?
"I'm definitely working on being that guy. I showed that at world juniors this year. ... I want to be that guy who takes the big faceoffs. When you need the big penalty kill late in the game, I want to be on the ice; especially when you need those big goals and big offensive plays, too. I want to be the guy who's counted on all over the ice. ... I want to be a leader and a guy who can be counted on on and off the ice. That stuff I'm working towards. I'm still young so I'm learning a lot, and I'm sure the teammates I have next year will definitely bring me along well, and I'll learn a lot from them. That will help me grow as a player."
On the Lightning:
"Obviously, they are in rebuilding mode. The team's got some pretty good offensive depth and developing some good defensemen, and they have a pretty good goaltender, too. So things are going to be turning around here pretty soon with the way things are going, with high draft picks and stuff like that."
On the visit to Tampa:
It's awesome. It's obviously a little different coming with a couple other guys but ... it's kind of neat to experience it with them. This is my second visit to an NHL franchise and to see Tampa and the beautiful rink here, and the facility is great. The meet the people in the organization and see how it all works behind the scenes is pretty cool."
Would you be surprised if you slipped to Tampa?
Not really. New York's been pretty quiet, not letting anything out what they want to do. There's a lot of rumors floating around. Anything can happen. You have to expect that and be ready for anything."
What about when you said you want to be an Islander by going No. 1?
"What I was trying to say is, if I'm selected by the Islanders, I'm totally 100 percent committed to going there. That's the point I was trying to make. If I end up coming here, it'd be the exact same thing. It'd be that exact same excitement and feeling, and it'd be an honor to come here. Obviously, it's special to be chosen first overall, and I'd be very excited about it. But down the road, at the end of the day, it's not going to mater years from now what number I'm selected. I'm just going to be happy to be part of an organization, be part of a future and, hopefully, build a winning tradition and be part of a team."
He's really big. He's very good at limiting time and space. He uses his stick very well, and for a guy his size, he moves very well, so it's very difficult to get around him. He pivots and skates well. Not only is he good in his own end, he takes the game on offensively. He's definitely going to be a great player for a long time."
On the media crunch:
"Since I was introduced to the spotlight when I was 14, I've become really accustomed (to it). It's become part of my daily lifestyle. It all comes with the territory, and I understand that stuff. I understand being in the spotlight."
What will training camp be like?
"I want to make a good impression and show them that I'm mentally ready for the National Hockey League. I've been trying to prepare myself the best I can over the last four years and my whole life. I've worked very hard for this. ... The drat is one a day. There's a lot more work to be done. I understand that, and I'm very excited about the opportunity and thankful for it. Not many people get to be in my shoes and have this chance, so I'm definitely going to do everything I can to do the best I can."