There is a lot of pressure being the first overall pick in the annual NHL Entry Draft and that pressure is increased when that player makes it onto his NHL club in the first season.
Most prospects need a year or two in the American Hockey League before they can be an impact player in the NHL. Even if they are good enough to make the show in their first season they usually go through a couple long slumps. John Tavares, the first overall selection in last June's NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, is no exception.
Tavares exploded into the NHL, scoring 21 points in his first two months, which included two goals and three assists in his first three games. Even in December Tavares continued to score points, six in the first five games of that month. Fantasy GMs who owned JT were ecstatic while those who didn't started throwing insane offers for him. After putting up 27 points in 32 games Tavares scored just two points in the next 15 games. Now, before you start saying how bad the Islanders are, during those 15 games the Islanders are 8-6-1 and have scored five or more goals in the last five games, including a 6-0 defeat over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night when Tavares was held pointless.
Remember, he is still just a kid; he is not even 20 years old and has been labelled the saviour of the Islanders since draft day. Tavares is a scoring machine; his junior scoring pace was just insane (0.87 goals per game and 1.75 points per game). Yes, it's the OHL, but that is just under a goal a game and just under two points a game. Those are some sick numbers. Don't forget Tavares also broke Wayne Gretzky's record for most goals by a 16-year-old and set many scoring records in the OHL. So Tavares knows how to score. I am not saying he will put up those numbers in the NHL, but he will be a 50- to 60-goal scorer and break the triple digits for points multiple times.
Steven Stamkos, taken first overall by the Tampa Bay Lighting in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, made the Lighting in his first year and, unlike Tavares, Stamkos actually had proven NHL talent to play with. Stamkos, however, didn't score his first NHL point until eight games into the season and had six scoring slumps of three games or more, including seven- and eight-game slumps. Stamkos finished the year strong scoring 19 points in the final 20 games. Stamkos worked extremely hard this off-season with NHL veteran Gary Roberts and came to camp on a mission. That hard work has paid off as he is second in scoring for the Lightning with 25 goals and 47 points in 45 games.
Chicago selected Patrick Kane as the first overall pick in the 2007 draft. Kane was able to make a seamless transition to the NHL, scoring 72 points in 82 games, but even Kane went through four mini-scoring slumps of three games or more. Like Stamkos, Kane finished off his rookie season with 20 points in 18 games. Kane put up similar numbers in his sophomore year and has broken out this season as he is on pace for more than 90 points.
If you are in a keeper league, now is the time to go after Tavares as his value is at the lowest it will ever be in his career. Get him now if you can while fantasy owners are sour on his scoring slump. Tavares will be a superstar in the NHL and, like most superstars; there are some growing pains. Not every first overall selection will have the same immediate impact that Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin did. Watch for Tavares to match the previous two first overall selections and finish his rookie season with a bang.