There is a reason Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is harder on Tomas Tatar than any other player on the team.
Babcock thinks that the 24-year-old left wing is so talented and has so much potential that he wants to do everything he can to help Tatar realize that potential.
“As long as he keeps working on his details and is committed to doing it all the time he’s going to get there,” Babcock said. “That’s the biggest challenge for a young player. What allowed you to be good last year isn’t good enough this year and the years to come. You got to keep getting better if you want to be the best. That’s what guys like (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg have done. So for our young players, they have great examples.”
Tatar, 5-10 and 185 pounds, isn’t doing badly now.
In his second full season, he leads the team with 21 goals and is on pace to become the Red Wings’ first 30-goal scorer since 2008-09, when Marian Hossa had 40 and Johan Franzen 34.
Tatar also understands why Babcock is so hard on him.
“He is really hard on me, but I think he means this in a good way,” Tatar said. “He’s just trying to help me out since I got here. I appreciate it, but sometimes it’s really hard. That’s just the way he coaches me. I guess he doesn’t know any other way to work with me, so I appreciate it.”
His teammates talked about what makes Tatar so good.
“He’s so tenacious, and obviously he’s extremely skilled,” Riley Sheahan, Tatar’s occasional linemate, said. “You put those two things together with an incredible work ethic, it makes a pretty impressive player.”
Said Stephen Weiss: “He’s a very dangerous scorer. He’s got a real good shot and a lot of energy. He’s a fun guy to be around, a fun guy to be around in practice. He practices hard and he works at it. Turned into quite the star.”
His production this season came after a slow start, in which he had only one goal in the first nine games. But he had 20 in his last 38.
“Tats had a slow start point-wise, but it was just a matter of time,” teammate Gustav Nyquist said. “When you’re creating as many chances as Tats does he’s going to score eventually.
“He’s going to be a good player for a long time. He loves scoring goals and he’s going to keep producing offense for us.”
Tatar reached the 20-goal plateau when he had two goals and an assist in a 5-2 win over Nashville on Jan. 17.
“I’m not really thinking about it (20 goals) right now, but obviously I’m happy I did it and hopefully I’ll keep scoring and help the team pick up wins.” he said after the game.
Tatar had 19 goals in 73 games last season, his first full NHL campaign. He was also a healthy scratch in eight of the first nine games.
“I felt way more confident heading into this season than I did before,” Tatar said. “The reason was I kind of established myself here and I knew if I played the same that won’t change. Last year I didn’t know what to expect and I started the year in the stands and it was kind of hard for me. But I went through it and I think it made me even (better). Now I’m ready to stay here.”