With John Tavares being the likely candidate to go first overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, there have been various people have been saying how this kid is possibly better than Sidney Crosby and how he may in fact be the true "next one". Bringing a kid like this into the NHL can do wonders for the team that drafts him and for the league. Look what Crosby and Ovechkin did in their rookie years during the 2005-2006 seasons, and how they have become league icons, not to mention the fact they immensely helped amplify the market and attention value of their respective teams. With John Tavares likely to make his NHL debut at the start of the 2009-2010 season (assuming all goes well for him), him joining the NHL should only help boost the league's popularity and market value. One would say that in order for the league to "do this right", it all depends on the team that drafts Tavares. This of course can be countered. When Ovechkin and Crosby joined their respective teams, the Capitals and the Penguins, both teams were considered small market teams that were bottom dwellers in the Eastern Conference. They had small fan bases and generated little local interest. I will take a look at six teams that currently have the best chances at the No. 1 overall pick at this year's draft and determine which of these teams could be the best fit for Tavares to benefit them, and the league.
The Atlanta Thrashers are a team up in the air. While drafting Tavares would be a big plus for the franchise, they may be on the move (as rumored), and his major support Illya Kovalchuk, may not even remain a Thrasher for Tavares' entire rookie year. Although Atlanta is not a good hockey community, Atlantians have some interest, especially when the Thrashers won the division back in the 2006-2007 season. Tavares would definitely help boost attendance numbers in Atlanta, which have dwelled between 22-28th overall over the years. Tavares would definitely increase media attention and interest in Atlanta as well, but the Thrashers would be the least of the teams for him to go to for the benefit of the NHL in my opinion. Unless Atlanta attendance and marketing rocket through the roof and the team becomes an immediate powerhouse, which is extremely unlikely, Tavares would be better off if he was drafted by another team. As of now, Atlanta also has the second best chance of drafting Tavares as they stand at 29th in the league standings.
Currently 15th in the Western Conference, the Blues have yet to make a playoff appearance in the post-lockout era, but these hardships have paid off with a lively prospect pool, and awarded them with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Erik Johnson. It can be argued that St. Louis is a decent hockey environment, when it wants to be, and that the Blues have the potential to build themselves into a competitive playoff team again. One can argue that John Tavares would be the final piece to the puzzle for a young and struggling Blues team to build around. Adding Tavares to a group of young players such as Erik Johnson and Patrik Berglund, along with veterans such as Jay Mckee and Brad Boyes, who will be in St, Louis long term can set the stage for the Blues to continue developing more of their young talent, while bringing in some legit stars to support Tavares and Johnson, the nuclei of their young team. If the Blues end up drafting Tavares, his arrival should surely spike hockey interest in the area, much like what happened in Pittsburgh and Washington. The Blues are considered a "small market" team as of now, but like what happened to the Caps and Pens, Tavares has the potential to single handedly spike attendance and interest in the Blues franchise and elevate the team to a level, similar to where Pittsburgh and Washington currently stand.
The New York Islanders are a team in the middle. As of now, the Islanders also seem to have the best chance out of all teams to draft Tavares in this year's draft, as they only have thirteen wins this season. The Islanders are in desperate need of a savior to provide new hope for one of the youngest teams in the league. The Islanders would definitely be the most grateful team to obtain Tavares, because not only will he establish a nucleus for the Islanders to build around, but he will also bring that bonus of media attention and increased interest in the franchise. If the Islanders draft Tavares, his arrival could also get players such as Trent Hunter, Mike Campoli, and Kyle Okposo going, and racking up points. If all goes well, the Islanders can get a good thing going with their current set of young players developing, combined with the arrival of Tavares. Hopefully, history does not repeat itself, and the Islanders end up dealing Tavares after 2-3 years, like they did with the likes of Olli Jokinen, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Roberto Luongo, and Zigmund Palfy.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning don't go on another shopping spree like they did last summer, drafting Tavares would be a fantastic addition to a Tampa Bay team that already has the likes of Vincent Lecavlier, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Andrej Meszaros. Rebuilding their franchise to where they once were four years ago around that handful of players, while trying to unload some of their older veterans and enormous contracts would be the right direction for the struggling Tampa Bay franchise to go. Post-lockout, the Lightning were top ten in fan attendance for consecutive seasons. There is a hockey market in Tampa Bay and the fans show up to games. The Lightning can become dangerous and dominant if the likes of Tavares is added into the nucleus of players on this team, that Tampa Bay should build around, without going on any major summer shopping sprees. It's obvious that no matter where Tavares goes, the market for that team, along with overall media attention will expand. It can be considered a decent bonus along with his services. Lecavlier is already considered Tampa's franchise player. Perhaps Tavares (unless he has a Stamkos-like rookie season) joining the Lightning adds another big name face of the franchise, similar to how Crosby and Malkin share the spotlight in Pittsburgh.
I think if Tavares gets drafted by the Ottawa Senators, it would be the second best place for him to go, and would definitely be the most interesting in terms of what would happen to the Senators team. This is just my opinion, but if the Sens wind up drafting Tavares, I think it would start a small domino effect on the team. They will definitely trade away at least one of their big three (likely Heatley or Spezza) and probably get rid of one or two other underachievers on the team such as Vermette, Fisher, and Ruutu. The Senators will receive prospects and picks in return, and then attempt to make a big splash or two this summer via free agency or trade. Ottawa is a Canadian team and a great hockey market. It is obviously better for the league is Tavares winds up on a Canadian team, and although Toronto would be the best place for both their team and for the league for Tavares to wind up on, Tavares would have a better chance of prospering in Ottawa if he plays around the likes of Alfredsson, and or Heatley and Spezza, and Kuba. Ottawa also has a pack of decent young prospects, which Tavares will obviously spearhead as the Senators try to rise back to power in the East.
Out of the teams able to draft Tavares in the draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be the best place for Tavares to end up. Toronto is a great hockey town with a lot of history that receives enormous amounts of attention. The Leafs have a harsh, but loyal fan base that would openly welcome the likes of John Tavares. Like the Blues, the Leafs have yet to make a playoff appearance post-lockout era, and there are consistent rumors that the Leafs are continuing to try and unload their big contracts and veteran players such as Kaberle, Blake, and Kubina, in order to receive high draft picks and prospects in return. If the Leafs are able to successfully dismantle their team and the right way, they can have a good shot at landing the No. 1 pick in the draft, and claim the big prize. Tavares will arrive onto a team that has a respectable mix of developing youngsters and proven veterans (that will not be traded such as Stepniak, Finger, Van Ryn), and can have the potential to become the face of one of the biggest hockey franchises in the NHL and the world. Tavares prospering in Toronto will be beneficial for the Leafs (obviously), and for the league if a legitimate proven star on the rise is placed on one of the league's popular and original six franchises.
Overall, this the point I am trying to pass. Out of these six teams, and the teams that I have determined are best and worst for Tavares to get drafted by, I think it would be better off, mainly for Tavares as a player and for the league if he gets drafted by a Canadian team, particularly Toronto or Ottawa. It would be more beneficial for the franchise if a team like the Thrashers or the St. Louis Blues drafted Tavares, but it may not be best for the league, and expanding interest in the NHL, unless a Crosby or Ovechkin-like transition occurs on these teams, which is definitely possible. If anyone reads this, tell me your opinions. Realistically and logically speaking, where do you think it would be best for Tavares to wind up come draft day? Where do you think he would prosper the most as a player, which team, do you think he would benefit most, and where do you think he would be better off for the benefit of the league, and why? I want to hear your thoughts.