TORONTO (CP) - John Tavares, the 14-year-old Toronto hockey star, has been granted his request for exceptional player status and thus will be eligible for the OHL major junior draft on Saturday, the league announced Wednesday. The Oshawa Generals have first pick and are expected to select the six-foot-one forward, who scored 83 goals and amassed 147 points in 77 games for his Toronto Marlies minor midget team this season. He also played 16 games for a provincial Jr. A team in nearby Milton and earned 23 points including 11 goals. The OHL normally does not allow players under 15 to be drafted. An OHL panel asked to rule on the Tavares request conducted extensive interviews, including sessions with the player, his mother, coach James Naylor and sports psychologist Paul Dennis. The panel concluded that Tavares was an exceptional player "who possesses the maturity and strength to play in the Ontario Hockey League for the 2005-2006 season."
Tavares, the nephew of the pro lacrosse star of the same name, turns 15 next Sept. 27, when the next major junior season will be just underway. The previous exception was made six years ago when Jason Spezza was allowed to play for the Brampton Battalion, under an OHL provision that stipulated an under-aged draftee had to play in his home town. There is no similar restriction on Tavares. The panel was comprised of Kevin Burkett, a labour arbitrator and mediator and longtime hockey coach, Frank Bonello, director Central Scouting for the NHL, and retired NHL player Doug Gilmour. International Scouting Services projects that Oshawa will select Tavares, the Sarnia Sting will take centre Logan Couture of the St. Thomas Jr. B club, the Saginaw Spirit will use the No. 3 spot to select left-winger Zac Torquato of Stratford, and Kingston, selecting fourth, will opt for Timmins defenceman Mark Katic. ISS deems Tavares the most impressive prospect for pro success since Sidney Crosbie, who tore up the QMJHL this season.
-Referenced from www.sportsnet.ca