Commentary

Tavares surrounded by youth

Updated: February 21, 2013, 5:12 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPN.com

New York Islanders center John Tavares didn't spend the summer house hunting in Brooklyn, but he had a pretty eventful offseason nonetheless. The 22-year-old forward, a former first-overall pick, shipped off to Switzerland to work on his game during the lockout and is adjusting to his new off-ice role as godfather to teammate Matt Moulson's baby daughter, Mila. Tavares tells ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang about diaper duty, the Swiss-league experience and what he thinks about the Islanders' playoff chances in this week's installment of the New York Minute.

STRANG: How was Switzerland?

TAVARES: I really enjoyed my time there. Bern's a great city. Living there is really easy. We had a great team -- I think the best team in the league -- and they're still doing really well, and [attendance] is like 18,000 people a night. It was incredible, the support and how much [the fans] love the team.

STRANG: What made you decide to go?

TAVARES: At the time, I still wasn't sure if I wanted to go. The first thing I was thinking was waiting a couple more weeks and see how things were going, but the opportunity -- going and playing with [Islanders captain Mark Streit] and knowing the support they had, the organization -- I knew it was a really good team where I could challenge myself and get better, practice and playing a lot of games in that league. It was just too hard to turn down. ... I wanted to just keep getting better, work on things and keep improving.

STRANG: Did that help you when the season started?

TAVARES: I think in some ways, yes, for sure, but in other ways, I'm still adjusting to coming back and the style of play, the size of the rink. I played probably 25 games on left wing there.

STRANG: Oh, wow. When's the last time you've done that?

TAVARES: Never. I've never played left wing. The team was struggling and they put me with [former NHLer] Byron Ritchie. We had some good chemistry and were playing really well and I think the adjustment to the left wing on the big surface really isn't that difficult compared to the smaller surface. There were a lot of things to adjust to and still [I'm] getting better, but obviously timing and being on the ice is always great. It was beneficial to play a lot of games, that's for sure.

STRANG: This is your fourth season with the Islanders, what do you think of the club's young core and the direction it is heading?

TAVARES: We've talked about it for a long time -- getting to the playoffs, the next step -- and it's time for us to really do it. This year, I think our sense of urgency -- challenging each other and pushing each other throughout the season on and off the ice -- is the highest it's ever been. I think, understanding that there's not much else but to get there -- and we really want to get there. A lot of us have never been in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That's truly what it's all abut. I definitely think we're going in the right direction, but I think we know the urgeny for us: It's time for us to get there.

STRANG: Have you gotten stuck with much diaper-changing or baby-sitting with Moulson's little one?

TAVARES: Definitely not. No.

STRANG: That's the easiest godfather gig ever, then.

TAVARES: I've played with her a little bit and let Matt and his wife eat when they need to eat.

STRANG: Who does she remind you of most? Matt or Alicia [Moulson's wife]?

TAVARES: I don't know. I'd say a little bit of both. I think she probably looks a little more like his wife than him.

STRANG: Lucky kid.

TAVARES: [Laughing] That's what I told him, but he doesn't think so.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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