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Golden second chance

Bruins come out of lottery at No. 2

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / April 14, 2010

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The Bruins weren’t winners in last night’s bounce of the Ping-Pong balls, but they held serve, which means they’ll pick second in the NHL’s June 25 draft.

Welcome to Boston, Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall. Can’t wait to see what you have.

“We are going to get an impactful offensive forward,’’ said an elated Peter Chiarelli, the Bruins general manager, less than an hour after the lottery was conducted at the league’s Manhattan headquarters. “We’re undecided. We’re still assessing.’’

But, said Chiarelli, the next and brightest young light in the franchise definitely will be either Seguin, a center, or Hall, a left winger, who are ranked as the two best teenagers available this year. Cam Fowler, who likely would have been the Bruins’ pick had they dipped to third, is a smooth-skating defenseman and potential franchise back liner. But it’s now up to the Florida Panthers, selecting in the 3-hole, to decide whether he’s the guy to bring South Florida hockey back to relevance.

Boston’s choice, its reward for dealing restricted free agent Phil Kessel to Toronto last September, essentially will be made by the Oilers, who in last night’s lottery retained the right to select first overall. Once the Oilers make their selection, be it Seguin or Hall, then the Bruins won’t so much make a choice as collect the spoils of last night’s hold of service.

Either way, heads or tails, Seguin or Hall, the Bruins win, based on the formidable pedigree of these two kids. Though considerably different in playing style, both are widely considered the real deal. Hall, said Chiarelli, is like Jarome Iginla, the rugged and respected winger and cap tain of the Calgary Flames. Seguin, he said, is like current center Steve Stamkos (Tampa Bay) and Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine.

“That’s lofty company,’’ Chiarelli said, specifically noting the Seguin comps, Stamkos and LaFontaine. “But he’s a terrific offensive player.’’

With more than eight weeks to go before the draft, and the Oilers not tipping their hand as to their pick, there is plenty of time to drill down on the pluses and minuses of each of these forwards and how they will fit in with Edmonton or Boston.

Right now, however, it stands to reason (as much of it as there is in the ever-wacky NHL) that the Oilers would opt for Seguin as a prospective franchise center to tie together some of the many loose parts they have in their forward ranks. If so, the Bruins would nab Hall, which makes abundant sense, given that they have Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci more than adequately filling the center position.

What happens if the Oilers take Hall? Then Seguin comes to Boston and the Bruins consider their options, which could include shifting Bergeron back to the wing, where he began his career, or possibly starting Seguin out along the wall (left or right). Chiarelli made a point, more than once, during his conference call last night that he felt Seguin could be successful at any of the three forward spots.

“I have a preference,’’ said Chiarelli, asked which player he liked most, “but I’ll talk to our staff. There’s some flip-flopping. They’re so close, I’d be content with [either] one.’’

Here in the Hub of Hockey, we know all too well how dicey it can be to pin our hopes on kids. In June ’97, after finishing dead last in the 1996-97 season, the Bruins entered the June draft with picks Nos. 1 and 8, eager to get their hands on primo teenage talent.

Joe Thornton, touted as an Eric Lindros-Mike Modano hybrid, was the consensus No. 1 pick and the Bruins were quick to select Jumbo Joe as the No. 1 building block in what they hoped would be a dynamic turnaround. They then grabbed Sergei Samsonov in the No. 8 spot, jubilant to bring aboard the Magical Muscovite, especially given that the undersized winger for a while was considered by a number of scouts to be the pick of the draft litter.

Thornton eventually became a league MVP, but by then he was wearing San Jose teal, after a frustrated Boston front office unloaded him on the Sharks for three players: Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau, and Marco Sturm. Samsonov eventually was dealt to Edmonton in the spring of 2006, one of the last official acts of Mike O’Connell, whose tour as GM ended weeks before Thornton was proclaimed the Hart (MVP) winner.

The lesson in all of that: Don’t go wishing on a one-player fix, or expecting too much too soon. Thornton, though among the game’s most prolific setup men, has never become a true franchise centerpiece. Just not enough of either Lindros or Modano. Samsonov, although voted Rookie of the Year for 1996-97, ultimately became a first-line wannabe, a winger with some dazzling east-west moves but lacking in the necessary north-south grit to score goals.

Chiarelli said he envisioned both Seguin and Hall making it to the NHL next season.

“Both project as impact players,’’ he said. “Both are very, very good offensive players that will make a difference in that sense that you will add an offensive component to your team. As they get bigger and stronger, they’ll be even better.’’

Case in point: Thornton’s rookie year in Boston: 55 games, 3 goals, 7 points. Not the giant start everyone anticipated.

“These two players,’’ said Chiarelli, “are exciting in their own way. I leave the rink after watching them and I am very excited.’’

All we know for now are the faces. Check back here in about eight weeks for the identity, and a lot later for the legacy.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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