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Canadian Press
Jan 24, 2007, 5:34 PM EST


(CP) - John Tavares was crushed when he was cut from the Canadian junior team in December and has been on a tear in the Ontario Hockey League since then.

Even though the 16-year-old has three more years in which he can play for his country at the world junior tournament, he was the most upset of the 11 players released on the second-last day of camp. During the OHL's holiday break, he had a lot of time to rest up and get fired up while watching the team he wanted to be on win gold in Sweden.

Tavares has scored 16 goals and added 14 assists in his 12 games since the OHL resumed its schedule.

He's taken over the lead in the league's scoring race with 46 goals and 42 assists in 43 games.

At just 16, he's closing in on 50 goals heading into Thursday's contest against the host Windsor Spitfires.

"Not going to the world juniors gave me time to refresh and relax," Tavares said Wednesday from Oshawa.

"I'm trying to look at it as a positive. I was disappointed and sad for a few days, but I had nine days to rest and relax and be with my family."

He also feels he has something to prove.

"I wanted to show them next year I can be on that team," Tavares said. "One hundred per cent I wanted to be there."

The six-foot-one, 183-pound forward from Oakville, Ont., admits the net is looking bigger these days.

"Things are going well for me, but it's not a one-man show," he said. "I've got great linemates and teammates."

Tavares is flanked by wingers Cal Clutterbuck and Brett McLean. The Generals are a young team, but are fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 22-17-1-4 record.

Tavares has that sixth hockey sense that will have NHL scouts glued to him from now until his entry draft in 2009.

He has uncanny passing and puckhandling skills. His skating has been knocked by some, but Generals coach and general manager Brad Selwood points out Tavares gets where he needs to go to produce as much as he does.

When Tavares returned after the break, he was also able to ditch a knee brace he'd been wearing since injuring his knee during Canada's under-18 hockey camp in August.

What can get overlooked is the amount of ice time Tavares logs. Selwood says his young star averages around 30 minutes a game.

"You don't expect that kind of stamina out of someone so young," Selwood said.

Tavares embraces the workload.

"I want to be relied on in all situations, in important defensive roles, penalty killing and in the faceoff circle," he said. "I want to show I can be a complete player."

Tavares was given an exceptional-player designation to join the OHL as a 15-year-old last season when he won both the OHL and Canadian Hockey League rookie awards.

He has 91 goals and 74 assists in 108 career OHL games and has another two full seasons in the league after this one.

"It's scary to think of the numbers he's going to put up when he's done," Selwood said.

Tavares was born on Sept. 20, five days too late to be eligible for the 2008 NHL entry draft.

So the Generals have the luxury of building a team around him for the next two seasons, thanks to his late birthday.

"I do thank God for that every day," Selwood said.

The Generals intend to bid to host the 2008 Memorial Cup.

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