The NHL’S best-kept secret is out of the bag.

The Islanders are no longer third-class citizens in the New York area and the brightest talent and perhaps biggest star in the New York area wears orange and blue not a blueshirt.

John Tavares and the Islanders rose from hockey Siberia last season nearly taking Pittsburgh to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

Now there is no sneaking up on anyone and it’s clear Tavares will be the focus of even more checking by the opposition. That’s what happens when you are as good as he is.

“It ain’t gonna get any easier for us in the Coliseum with more attention and more expectations” said Tavares the No. 1 pick of the 2009 draft. “The team we had last year — I don’t know if anybody really gave us a good chance. We just have to understand that it’s going to take a lot more than what we did last year to be more successful and get back to the playoffs and be successful in the playoffs.”

Led by Tavares the Isles surprised by going 24-17-7 to grab the eighth seed in the East in the lockout-shortened 48-game season. The center finished with 28 goals and 19 assists and joined Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to his team. Though the “C” on his sweater and exceptional talent make Tavares 23 the undisputed leader of the Islanders No. 91 isn’t convinced he’ll need another MVP-caliber year to be a force.

“I can’t go out there and beat five guys” Tavares said. “I’m just improving my game individually as much as I can each and every offseason and training camp to be as productive as I can and challenge myself to compete with the best players in the league. . . . We’re going to have to do this together.”

The departure of defenseman Mark Streit this offseason left Tavares as the obvious choice for team captain as coach Jack Capuano says he’s seen the leader in Tavares all along.

“I think anytime anyone walks in the building they’re going to keep an eye on 91” Capuano said.

“When John talks people are going to listen because he’s the hardest-working guy. He knows what it takes to compete at a high level.”