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Bob Duff, Windsor Star
Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007


Brad Selwood heard the hurt in John Tavares' voice.

At the same time, he recognized that determined streak he's come to expect from his star pupil.

Instinctively, Selwood knew the rest of the Ontario Hockey League was in serious trouble.

"He called me from Calgary," said Leamington native Selwood, coach and general manager of the Oshawa Generals, recalling the late-December long-distance discussion with Tavares, 16, moments after he'd been dropped from Canada's national junior team.

"He said, 'Coach, I got cut.' We talked for three or four minutes and after that, he was like, 'OK, let's get ready for (the rest of the season).'"

When he was let go by Team Canada, it marked the first time in his hockey career that a team told Tavares he was not wanted.

"I could tell he was driven," Selwood said.

The rest of the league can also stand up and testify to this fact.

In 12 games since he was cut from Canada's eventual world junior gold medal-winning squad, Tavares -- at Windsor Arena tonight as the Generals face the Windsor Spitfires -- has registered 16 goals and 13 assists.

There was a hat trick against the Peterborough Petes and a four-goal outburst, along with the shootout winner, in a 6-5 decision over the Belleville Bulls.

"That night -- and I am not exaggerating -- he could have had about eight goals," Selwood said. "Belleville's goalie (Mike Murphy) made some great saves."

With 46-42-88 numbers, Tavares has moved into a deadlock with Belleville's Tyler Donati for the OHL scoring lead.

Should Tavares go on to emerge victorious in this race, he'll make history.

No 16-year-old has ever led the OHL in scoring.

No 16-year-old has ever taken the OHL by storm in the fashion that Tavares is currently dominating.

At 16, Bobby Orr was good for 29-43-72 totals in 56 games with the 1964-65 Generals. Wayne Gretzky garnered three points in three games with Peterborough at the same age in 1976-77.

Eric Lindros and Marcel Dionne weren't even in the league when they celebrated their sweet 16th.

In fact, when seeking a junior hockey parallel for Tavares, there's but one - Sidney Crosby, who won the 2003-04 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League scoring title, registering 135 points with the Rimouski Oceanic.

Selwood, a WHA teammate of Gordie Howe, avoids comparisons when speaking of his young phenom.

"We've gone through all the cliches trying to describe him," Selwood said.

Tavares exudes a passion for the game and lives to be on the ice, devoting much of his practice time to the weaker parts of his game, such as defensive play and faceoffs.

"He's a great kid and a hard worker," Selwood said.

"He's got great instincts. He does things out there that sometimes I think even he doesn't know why they happen.

"He's got that one skill you can't teach -- anticipation. He goes to places before the puck gets there in what seems like a minute in advance, he reads the play so well."

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