John Tavares of the New York Islanders wasn't just the first player selected in the 2009 NHL draft.

He was the most celebrated teenager to enter the league since the Penguins put Sidney Crosby on their payroll four years earlier.

Tavares, it was said, had almost unlimited offensive potential.

He was blessed with exceptional instincts and creativity, was as adept at setting up teammates as he was lethal anytime he got the puck near the net.

All of that might have struck some as a bit hyperbolic at the time.

Now that Tavares is into his fourth professional season, it's clear that it simply was an spot-on scouting report.

Perhaps a bit understated, even.

Tavares enters the Islanders game against the Penguins at 7:38 p.m. today at Consol Energy Center as New York's leader in points (7), assists (6) and ice time among forwards (22:23), and is in a three-way tie for the team lead in shots (15).

His league-wide profile isn't quite as high as it might be if he played for a more prominent franchise, but the coaches who have to devise strategies for containing Tavares, and the opponents charged with executing those plans, are all too familiar with him.

Because he shares a position with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos, among others, Tavares might not be on top of the short list of the game's best centers, but he definitely is on it.

And not all that far down.

"Johnny really makes our team go," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said after his team's workout Monday at Consol Energy Center. "I would put him up there with some of the top guys in this league."