Preseason Player Preview: John Tavares



For most of us that’s all the analysis that’s needed, but the fat cats at the Nation Network say I’ve got to dig deeper beyond just “John Tavares is a Leaf” and welcome to seven years of pure bliss.

So let’s do that. Let’s take inventory in what the Leafs so wonderfully wooed away from the Islanders.

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  • A 5 time All-Star
  • A player who has been in the top 10 goal scorers in the league 3 times
  • Selected to the All Rookie Team
  • Selected to the 1st All Star Team
  • Finished in the top 10 for points twice
  • 7th best active goals per game
  • 10th best active points per game
  • 6th best active assists per game
  • 8 career hat tricks
  • Former Captain of the Islanders
  • Canadian World Juniors Medalist
  • One pair of Maple Leaf pajamas

Really the only flaw I can find with Tavares is that he played half a season with the London Knights, but I guess nobody is perfect.

On a bit more of a serious note, the Leafs have spent a lot of money on Tavares, and have committed to him for seven years, previewing him this season is the easy one because we get to focus on a player who is coming off his second best season in the league, still in his 20s, and carries with him the fanfare of being the local boy, megastar free agent who chose the Leafs. We could be singing a very different tune in a few years, but that’s a problem for future Leafs Nation. Right now let’s get back to where we’re at today.

Last season…

All Situations 5v5
GP G Pts TOI P/60 P1/60 CF% GF% xGF%
82 37 84 19:56 2.03 1.61 48.47 49.15 46.86
via corsica.hockey

So those %s are less than ideal, but given the fact that the Islanders weren’t good, those numbers didn’t stand much of a chance. Tavares was doing the heavy lifting. Even with the Barzal line emerging, it was Tavares that the opposition were matching to last year, and there aren’t too many easy shifts in Tavares past given the Islanders have at best been mediocre during his time there. The story we’ll be telling about McDavid’s time in Edmonton in few years when he leaves, that’s basically what Tavares has lived through in his time with the Islanders.

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Corsica Player Profile

I mean, if we’re looking at how Tavares has done over his career, it’s probably worth mentioning that he’s put up points a .93 point per game pace, and he’s just 28 goals shy of 300. The offensive numbers speak for themselves, but the Islanders may have masked what a rounded out player Tavares really is, although I wouldn’t be surprised if that offensive zone start trend continues.

Looking into Tavares a bit further (via CJ Turtoro’s dashboards) we gain a bit of an appreciation for Mat Barzal, but beyond that a bit more insight into Tavares too, and how he compares to some of the other Leafs forwards…

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Tavares being around what the Leafs got from Kadri as far as controlled exits is comforting, and in many ways so is the fact that he strongly prefers controlled exits to clears and dumps. Of the forwards on the list he didn’t have as many fails either, but we can see that he Josh Bailey was the guy who primarily exited the zone on Tavares’ line last season.

When it came to entries, Tavares would have been 4th on the Leafs behind Marner, Nylander, and Matthews. Like with exits, Tavares strongly favoured controlled entries over dump-ins. The combination of Marner and Tavares together looks promising, and should be a relationship that improves upon Tavares’ work with Josh Bailey.

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Yeah, Mat Barzal is really good, but remember Mat Barzal did what he did because the opposition’s top line defenders were matching against Tavares. Seeing what Tavares was able to do for shot generation, it’s clear he’ll be a welcome addition to a Leafs lineup that already had a ridiculous amount of fire power.

Just to expand on that, John Tavares is a pretty darn good passer. We can talk about his scoring ability until we’re blue in the face, but Tavares has been a solid setup man, as demonstrated by what he’s done for Anders Lee. Should we be considering 2018-19 the year of 40 goal scorer Zack Hyman? Playing with Tavares and Marner it seems possible, but still pretty damned unlikely. Perhaps Hyman will get swapped out for someone like Kapanen or Johnsson at some point and they could be the beneficiary of the cushiest job in hockey. (wait, I’m being told Ty Rattie has the cushiest job in hockey)

With TOI With CF% With
Mitchell Marner 32:52:00 53.85
Kasperi Kapanen 10:54 60
Trevor Moore 8:34 38.89
Zach Hyman 5:30 50

(via naturalstattrick.com)

Finally, the inevitable comparison to Matthews…

The good news is that we get to have them both of the Leafs, and it doesn’t matter which one is better. The other piece is that for the moment it looks like John Tavares reigns supreme, which is a nice thing to see given that it may shelter Matthews a little more, and potentially save the Leafs a few dollars when they negotiate with Matthews next summer.

To recap for people who like to skip past charts

Tavares is talented goal scorer and playmaker who will take an incredible amount of pressure off of Auston Matthews, and has the potential to take Mitch Marner to the next level in terms of his development as well. At the moment, he’s one of the best players in the game, and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, and realistically we’ve probably got 3 or 4 years before those worries are something we will have to discuss.

John Tavares has put the Leafs forward group over the top and has made them arguably the best group in the game today, or at the very worst one of the top four forward groups in the league.

I’d love to pretend that I can do anything beyond express my excitement for what John Tavares is going to bring to the Leafs, but unfortunately he’s been one of favourite players for the past decade and now he’s on the Leafs. It’s kind of remarkable for me personally that the Leafs have added two of favourite players of the past two decades to the lineup over the past two summers, and with all due respect to Patrick Marleau, this seems to be even more exciting.

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