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Seguin could be the one

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  November 10, 2011 05:01 PM

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If Tyler Seguin is the franchise forward we believe him to be then years from now when his career is recounted and his Stanley Cup titles (plural) are counted people will have to be reminded that he was in the backseat, along for the ride, not the driving force at the spoked-wheel of the Bruins' incredible, cathartic Stanley Cup journey.

That's how good Seguin can be, so good that a time when he couldn't crack the lineup will seem impossible. It will be as difficult to fathom now as the idea that Tom Brady was an unknown, string-bean, third-string quarterback in 2000.

Seguin's play as an NHL sophomore has been a ray of light shining through the fog of complacency that enveloped the Bruins to start this season. It's not a coincidence that the player with the most to prove has also been the Bruins' best.

After a rookie season full of growing pains, Seguin has grown up, leading the team in scoring with eight goals and seven assists in 13 games. His play a revelation that leads to the realization that the ability of the Bruins to lift Lord Stanley's chalice again in both the long-term and the short-term is intertwined with the career arc of Seguin, who won't turn 20 until January 31.

A shiny, spare part last season, Seguin has become a crucial component for the Bruins. He centered the No. 1 line when David Krejci was down and is now skating right wing alongside Game 7 heroes Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the Bruins' speed-to-thrill second line. Endearing him most to coach Claude Julien is that Seguin is tied for the league-lead in plus/minus at plus-11. He's taking care of his own end, as they say.

Tonight is as good a night as any to size up Seguin and his future because the player he forever will be linked with -- Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers -- is in town. You know the story. Taylor and Tyler were the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. They were compared and contrasted, dissected and debated, built up and torn down.

They will be linked forever like Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, Jacob Black and Edward Cullen (just want to see if you're paying attention).

The good news is that unlike those other infamous decision duos. There does not appear to be a clear loser in the Tyler-Taylor, Taylor-Tyler debate.

Truth be told, both players were overshadowed by Carolina's Jeff Skinner, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft. Skinner led all NHL newbies in points with 63 (31 goals, 32 assists) and became the youngest player ever to win the Calder Trophy, as NHL Rookie of the Year. He was also the youngest All-Star in NHL history at 18 years, 259 days.

Given guaranteed ice time and a lengthy leash by a retooling Edmonton outfit, Hall jumped out to a head start last year, potting a team-leading 22 goals to go along with 20 assists in 65 games. Unlike Seguin, Hall was never a healthy scratch. His season was truncated by a high ankle sprain suffered in his first NHL fight. Hall took on Derek Dorsett of the Columbus Blue Jackets to earn a Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight. Got to like the kid's spunk, but there is a reason snipers only hit corners.

Seguin had a much choppier start to his career, placed on a team that needed to expunge the stench of an odious playoff collapse the year before and in a system that emphasized defensive accountability he had to scratch and claw for limited ice time. He ended his inaugural NHL season with 11 goals and 11 assists in 74 games. His defensive deficiencies and reluctance to muck in the corners relegated him to the press box for the first two rounds of the playoffs until Patrice Bergeron's concussion pressed Seguin into action.

Seguin's stint with the Lords of the Laptop lit his competitive fire, as he scored six points (three goals, three assists) in his first two games against Tampa Bay, giving a glimpse of the coming attractions for this season.

The circumstances have reversed this year for Seguin and Hall. Seguin is the one piling up points on a bottom-feeding team -- despite a three-game win streak the Bruins enter tonight's tilt tied for last in the Northeast division. Hall's team is having success, but individually he is being overshadowed by his draft classmate.

Hall has three goals and six assists for the upstart Oilers, who come to TD Garden as the leader in the Northwest division with 20 points. His ice time has decreased slightly (18:13 as a rookie to 17:06), which might be as much a reflection of the Oilers' improved talent level as Hall's own play. The gifted Edmonton left wing has been upstaged by another No. 1 overall pick, rookie center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has 12 points in his first 14 NHL games.

Unless they meet in the Stanley Cup Final this will be the only meeting between Tyler and Taylor this year. They met once last year in Edmonton. Neither franchise-forward-in-training figured in the scoring.

If Seguin is the player the Bruins believe he can be then eventually Hall won't be his only point of comparison. You'll start to hear him mentioned with Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin. Maybe even some day his name will be mentioned with Shore, Orr, Esposito, Bourque, and Neely.

We're a long, long way from that. But we're also a long, long way from Seguin reaching the top floor of his talents.

We're not even out of the first chapter of Seguin's career. We're still on the first few pages.

But it has the potential to be a memorable tale.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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