The Islanders chose Tavares, a high-scoring junior star, with the first overall pick ahead of 6-foot-6, 220-pound Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, the top-ranked European prospect.
The Tampa Bay Lightnng took Hedman and the Colorado Avalanche followed with forward Matt Duchene, the first three selection going as expected.
Atlanta took center Evander Kane with the No. 4 overall pick. Kane might be a prospect for the Thrashers, spending another year in the minor leagues, and not begin the season in the NHL. He scored 48 goals last year for WHL Vancouver.
Despite ending last season by winning 12 of their last 18 games, the Thrashers missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years despite having Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the league's most prolific goal scorers.
COYOTES: A group led by Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has offered to buy the bankrupt franchise for $148 million and keep the team in Arizona.
The offer, submitted in bankruptcy court documents on Friday, is $64.5 million less than the bid by Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who wants to move the franchise to Southern Ontario.
Friday was the deadline set for potential buyers who would keep the team in Arizona to submit purchase applications to the NHL.
FLYERS: Acquired All-Star Chris Pronger from the Anaheim Ducks.
In exchange, the Flyers gave up right wing Joffrey Lupul and defenseman Luca Sbisa and their first-round draft pick in Friday's draft (21st overall) and their first-round pick in 2010.
DUCKS: Veteran defenseman Scott Niedermayer told the team he intends to return next season. A team spokesman said the team hopes to sign Niedermayer to a new contract soon.