Tyler Seguin will always have a special place in his heart for the NHL draft. After all, it was just two short years ago that the draft defined the then-18-year-old Plymouth Whalers star center. Now, he’s an NHL All-Star and a Stanley Cup champion.
“I've grown up since then,” Seguin said Thursday. “You kind of get forced to grow up.”
Taking a break from his Caribbean vacation, Seguin chatted about the draft and his continuing development in a conversation with WEEI.com on Thursday. When the now-20-year-old superstar looks back at everything – the combine, the interviews, the hype – he remembers it fondly. In fact, he says the only thing he would change about the experience is the suit he wore at the draft.
"It was an amazing time,” Seguin recalled. “Obviously, the whole Taylor/Tyler thing got old with the media and talking, but when I look back it was amazing. It was always an honor to be up there at the top of the draft. At the time, I couldn't wait for it to be over and know where I was going, but now that I look back it was definitely one of the highlights and memories of my career so far."
Though the cameras were following him and fellow top prospect Taylor Hall in the weeks leading up to the draft, the No. 1 ranked Seguin didn’t spend as much time meeting with teams as the average first-round prospect. After all, he figured to go second overall at the lowest, and neither the Bruins nor Oilers were willing to move out of their spots. He recalls Hall meeting with only four teams, while he met with six.
The most interesting team vying for Seguin’s services? Try imagining Brad Marchand repeatedly punching Seguin in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, as the Canucks were among the teams that courted Seguin in the pre-draft process.
The meetings varied from one team to the next, with the two most in-depth sessions coming with the Oilers and Bruins, the only teams Seguin physically visited. He met with the other teams at the combine, and the whole process proved to be far more than teams just wanting to know his strengths and weaknesses. In fact, one team (which will go unnamed) felt they already knew Seguin's weaknesses. The meeting was about letting him know.
"They pretty much tell you how bad you suck," Seguin said of one team's interview strategy. "[They tell you] the worst qualities you have in your game, and pretty much just rip you apart. I don't know, I'm guessing they were trying to see how you react, if you defend yourself. I don't really know what they were looking for, but I thought it was very strange. That's a strange approach."
Rather than getting in his first NHL fight in the meeting room, Seguin remembers sarcastically acting angry with the team, trying simply to mask how bewildered he was by the situation.
All of the confusion and wondering that came with the pre-draft process finally ended when the Oilers took Hall first overall, letting him slip to the Bruins.
Boston scooped Seguin up with the pick they’d acquired from the Maple Leafs in the previous September’s Phil Kessel deal, and the hype machine was reset. After months of speculation about where he’d end up, the questions became about the impact he’d have on a veteran Bruins team that had come a win away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals just over a month earlier. In an attempt to not overstep his boundaries, Seguin used five words in every answer he gave to reporters: If I make the team.
“That was mine,” Seguin said when asked who came up with his modest catchphrase. “I knew after the draft that you can't just make the team. In the past, there had been second overall picks that hadn't made the NHL in their first year, so I didn't see why I would have it handed to me on a silver platter with them saying, 'Here you go, you're on the team.'
“I wanted to earn it. The second I got drafted to Boston, I wanted to show the guys on the team who I hadn't met yet how I am and how I wanted to approach it and earn everything.”
STILL GROWING UP
If Seguin weren’t in the NHL and were just another 20-year-old, he might be entering his junior year of college. If he overslept for things, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Yet the life of professional athlete, especially one as high-profile as Seguin, doesn’t make accommodations for kids. Regardless of age, you can either handle it or you can’t.
That’s something that’s been tricky at times for Seguin. He knows what’s expected of him, but he also knows how old he is. Given all of that, the youngster has his moments. The most memorable remains the Winnipeg fiasco, when the Bruins made him a healthy scratch in December for skipping a team breakfast and meeting.
“I was so confused, to be honest,” said of what was going through his mind when he woke up. “I took my time. I went to the bathroom, I brushed my teeth. I looked at the clock, and I didn't get it. I figured, 'Something's just wrong with the clock. I don't get why it's doing that.' … I went back to my phone and saw like a million missed calls and messages and thought, 'What the hell is going on?'
"I eventually called someone back and they were like, 'What are you doing? Get down here.' I was like, 'We have an hour.'
Confusion soon turned to embarrassment when he finally understood the situation. The clock wasn't doing anything wrong, and the messages were teammates trying to prevent him from getting in trouble. He'd missed the team's breakfast and meeting, and given that it apparently wasn't the first time (Peter Chiarelli said so following the incident), the team had to discipline their young star.
“People are going to assume, 'He's a young kid, he can't handle it, he's missing meetings and doing bad stuff,'” Seguin said. “At the time, I was very, very nervous. It was going to be the first time I'd ever played in Winnipeg, so I was very excited for that and we had a [15-game point] streak going, so I wanted to continue that winning streak. I was nervous to see what the coaches would say. I went to talk to them, and they told me I was out of the lineup. I was very embarrassed and very pissed off.”
Live and learn is the only thing Seguin can do. He knows that he can’t go about things the same way as the average 20-year-old, but he also isn’t going to neglect his youth.
"You have to hold yourself [to] a bit higher [standards] than the average 20-year-old, but with that being said, it's still nice to escape it a bit and the summer and go see my 20-year-old buddies and act a little immature,” Seguin said. “I still like seizing those opportunities, just joking around and having fun.
“Obviously, you're playing with and your best friends on the team are between the ages of 25 and 40. When you're 20, you're going to be a bit more grown up [than you would be otherwise]. If you don't mature properly in the NHL, at such a young age you're not going to survive. You have to act older and just be a more mature.”
There was no doubt in Seguin's mind that Patrice Bergeron deserved to win the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward this season, but he knows just as well as anyone that the Bruins' alternate captain is hardly the type to draw attention to himself. Bergeron had somehow never been nominated until this season, but Seguin was happy to finally see his linemate get the recognition he's deserved for so long.
“He's not the guy who will say he wants those [accolades] ever, but he's just a guy who pours his heart out there every night,” Seguin said. “What hasn't he won? Gold medals, a Stanley Cup championship. The list goes on. He's the guy who I think deserved it more than anything and earned it.”
After Bergeron won the award, Seguin texted his linemate to congratulate him and added a tweet with the hashtag #rolemodel. Seguin’s one of the best young scorers in the game, but he’s enjoyed every second of playing with the ultimate two-way player.
“As a player, he's a role model of mine even though he's not too, too much older than me, he's still in his 20s,” Seguin said. “Just being on his line, you get to see a lot of the things up-close. The biggest thing for me, what I pick up from Bergy is the board-work. Battling, stuff like that.
“When you see Bergy, he's not the biggest guy, he's not the thickest guy, he's not ripped to shreds but he's smart with his stick. He's smart with how he puts his body in certain positions in the corners around big guys. I like picking up that stuff.
“Then when I see Marchy running around with his head chopped off, I turn away and pretend like I don't see it.”
[About 13 minutes into the conversation, Seguin got his first dig in at his fellow wing and friend Marchand. What took him so long?]
As it turns out, Seguin actually got two votes for the Selke himself, which was a surprise to not only anyone who’s watched him play, but to Seguin as well.
“I got what?!” Seguin asked when told of the votes. “… Can you tell my coaches that I got two votes?”
Seguin knows that he’s no Bergeron when it comes to two-way play and that he wasn’t deserving of Selke consideration, but he’s prided himself on being able to contribute to the line’s bread and butter of shutting down top lines while also producing offensively. Though Seguin led the Bruins with 29 goals and 67 points, he also had a shiny plus-34 rating, good for second in the league behind only Bergeron.
So far, the Bruins have struck gold with the second overall pick in 2010. Seguin more than tripled his 22 points as a rookie with last season’s breakout sophomore campaign, and as he comes back from a left hand injury (he had surgery and recently returned to the ice), Seguin is showing no signs of slowing down.
“I'm happy with how my first two years in the NHL have gone,” Seguin said. “I'm looking forward to the future.”