You’ve heard it since April 13, when the 2010 first-round draft pick acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel deal held up in the lottery to be the second overall choice: The Bruins have outrageous organizational depth at center. They need a goal-scorer. They need to go after Taylor Hall, even if it means moving up to No. 1.
The only problem with that logic is the guy they'd be passing on if they did so.
While Hall, fresh off electrifying the Memorial Cup with his scoring touch (5 G, 4 A in four games), is viewed by many as being the better fit right now, Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin (pronounced "SAY-ginn") has been called the next Steve Yzerman. Seguin and his coach, former Hartford Whaler Mike Vellucci, spoke with WEEI.com recently, and the 18 year-old’s confidence and perceived hockey smarts were prevalent enough to suggest he's the type of guy you change your offense for. If you have the type of depth the Bruins do, you make room.
“Tyler skates a lot like [Yzerman], probably even a little bit better of a skater,” Vellucci said of Seguin. “I think [the comparisons] are fair. I know that it's flattering for Tyler, but I think it's more than just on the ice. I think it's character, too. I think Tyler's a mature kid and carries himself off the ice the way Steve Yzerman did, too, and Joe Sakic, guys like that. I think that there's so many aspects of why he's compared to him not just on the ice. I think it's the whole package."
Would David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron or Marc Savard be grossly overpaid and underutilized as a potential fourth-line center? Undoubtedly. Would Joe Colborne be left twiddling his thumbs at Providence a little longer than necessary? Probably. Are these enough reasons to pass on potentially the team's best young center since Joe Thornton? It's hard to say, but it's a certainty that Seguin, who skyrocketed in the eyes of the NHL Central Scouting Bureau to be ranked as the top player in the draft, would be one heck of a consolation prize.
Vellucci has a unique perspective on Seguin, having scouted him, drafted him ninth overall in 2008 and coached him for the majority of his two seasons in Plymouth.
"We saw that he had offensive ability," Vellucci said of watching Seguin two years before he had blossomed into the can’t-miss prospect he is now believed to be. "The biggest thing that I noticed at a young age [was] that he was always keeping his feet moving. He was a very good skater and he was never standing still, never glided. He was always keeping his feet moving, he was always involved in the play, and I think the biggest thing about him was that he saw the ice better than anybody of his age group. He was an exceptional playmaker."
Take notice of that last word. Playmaker/complete/balanced makes up the three-headed monster of characteristics tortured Bruins fans may feel they don’t need any more of. Described by Vellucci as being "so unselfish where he would look to his teammates even when he had a better scoring angle" in his first year in Plymouth, Seguin tweaked his approach prior to this past season, resulting in an offensive outburst in 2009-10 so colossal that he led the league with 48 goals in addition to his 106 points, tying him with Hall atop the OHL.
"I really did [play selflessly] last year when I had better players around me," said Seguin, who has met with both the Oilers and Bruins. "I'd dish the puck and I knew they'd score, so I had more assists than goals. This year coming in, I've always been a playmaker, but I really wanted to show that I could also bury the puck, so I more than doubled my goals. I just wanted to show that I could be a complete player, I could be a goal-scorer or a playmaker. When you go to the NHL you might end up just being a penalty killer. It all depends, so I just wanted to show that I could be a complete player."
Such an evaluation is undeniable. Unlike the flashy yet-one-dimensional impact Hall would have on Claude Julien's offense, Seguin is versatile and -- earmuffs -- complete enough of a player to help out in every facet of the offense while also proving effective on the backcheck. The young forward had to earn his stripes a bit early on in Plymouth and proving himself as a dominant winger was among the tasks Seguin was forced to conquer. This, Vellucci believes, is where the line is drawn between the two wunderkinds, and if potentially playing a wing in Boston is what's on tap for Seguin, he'll take his talents to the right side of the dot.
"I've always been a natural centerman, and last year as a rookie in order to play on the top line … I had to play wing," Seguin said. "At first I wasn't happy about that, obviously just always playing center, but I adapted to playing wing, so I think I'm very diverse and I'm happy and comfortable playing either position."
As much as Seguin can be commended for his willingness to play either position, would anyone in their right mind actually stick a center with Seguin's prowess anywhere other than his natural position? Vellucci doesn’t think the versatility should be an open invitation to permanently move Seguin.
“He's going to be a center in the NHL, no doubt about it,” Vellucci said. “But when you're breaking into the NHL as an 18-year-old, it's always a good thing to have that you can play all three positions.
“He knows what to do defensively and he'll do it,” Vellucci added. “Being a smart, responsible hockey player in all three zones will make the transition that much easier.”
Though Seguin’s rise -- he was ranked well behind Hall and others as the No. 9 prospect entering the season before taking over the top spot -- has been a delight for anyone with access to YouTube, he got off to a frustrating start in the OHL that lasted until a change in philosophy was implemented by Vellucci.
Installed as a fourth-liner under then-coach Greg Stefan, Seguin had just one goal 17 games into the season. After Stefan left to become a scout for the Carolina Hurricanes, Vellucci reclaimed his old title as coach (he had been the Whalers’ coach from 2001-08). His first order of business was a sit-down with his stalling up-and-comer to figure out how to get the most out of the talented youngster.
“I thought his ability and his skill level was in the top three of our team as a 16-year old,” Vellucci said. “I just told him that I didn't care how old he was and that if he was that talented, competed hard, and wanted to be the best player, that I would play him.”
That’s exactly what he did. 17 games into his first season, the man who gave him his first chance in junior hockey gave his career an early rebirth by moving him up on the depth chart.
“Tyler needs to play with skilled players and I think skilled players need to play with skilled players,” Vellucci said of the thinking behind the decision. “Tyler, I think first and foremost, is a playmaker that makes his linemates better around him. But if he's getting the puck to a guy that is not a goal-scorer and can't finish, it's going to be a little different. I just thought that he needed to play with more skilled players.
“I moved him from the fourth line to second line center and he really did well. I moved him to the top line and he played some right wing and he just took off from there.”
Seguin says the meeting gave him the confidence of knowing that his coach believed in the talents he knew he had. He went on to total a modest 67 points on the season, but the promise was there and a breakout draft-year season on the horizon. If he wanted to catch the likes of Hall, who had been in the league a year before him, nothing less then that would have sufficed.
“I could tell from Day 1 of practice this year that he was a whole new committed person,” Vellucci said. “That first practice to the last practice to the last practice of the year, he worked as hard in practice as he did in the games to get better and I think that speaks about his character as much as anything.”
Which brings us to late May. Hall and his powerhouse Windsor Spitfires were stacked enough (Cam Fowler, who could be the third player taken, and Austin Watson are also big names in this draft) to sweep Plymouth and showcase their star in their second-consecutive Memorial Cup championship season. As a result, Seguin can’t be sure he hasn’t been leapfrogged in the Edmonton’s war room.
Is such a predicament a bad thing? Seguin, like any athlete, is driven to earn the distinction of being the first overall pick in a major draft, but it’s rare that the runner-up in the race for No. 1 can go to a team expected to compete for a cup.
“In the end it's still the NHL so I'm happy to go to either team,” Seguin said. “I don't have a preference. Edmonton is a Canadian city so they have a great fan base and they are a bit of a weaker team so there might be more opportunity there. With that being said, Boston's already a contender. You can hop in the NHL and get a run for the Stanley Cup.”
Vellucci, who has coached against Hall “about 40 games in the last three years,” says he has told Seguin not to get hung up on where he goes in the draft and instead focus on proving his worth on an NHL roster from the get-go. The only thing he hopes for his player is that the hype of this class, which has been substantial, doesn’t lead to expectations unrealistic of any one player.
“I think if he gets taken by Boston he'll handle it fine,” Vellucci said. “It's a great team, they've made the playoffs three years in a row, and it will be fine. Is he going to be the savior? No, but he'll be a good piece to the puzzle and I think he realizes no matter where he goes he's going to be given an opportunity to make the team. I think he'd be very happy going to Boston. It's a great place, great city, great hockey town.”
The Bruins can still get their goal-scorer with Seguin -- he just comes with the rest of the tools. If anything, he may push people down on the depth chart before being stuck on the bottom of it. In the event that this becomes a historic draft, the Bruins might not want to be remembered as the team that moved up to take someone else.