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A growing season for Seguin

Rookie will sit for now but stands ready to help

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 14, 2011

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WILMINGTON — Upon the conclusion of the NHL regular season, there were only seven teenagers who were full-time players. There’s a good reason for their paucity. The NHL — Thomas Hobbes would describe it as nasty and brutish — is no place for boys.

Tyler Seguin learned that the hard way.

The No. 2 overall pick by the Bruins in the 2010 draft was one of those seven youngsters. Evander Kane, Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Burmistrov, and Cam Fowler were the others.

Seguin, who turned 19 Jan. 31, had been a no-doubt superstar at every previous level. But in the NHL, he wasn’t a difference-maker. That may not entirely have been his fault.

“I’m relatively satisfied with his development,’’ said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli during a conference call this week. “You have to put it in context with his age. You have to put it in context that he’s an individual who’s seen that he has to grow in certain areas on and off the ice.

“He’s a real good kid. My guess is that he won’t start in the lineup for the playoffs. I hope he finds his way into it. The play is going to ramp up in the playoffs. Had he gone back to junior, the areas where he had to get better at would have been left dormant. He had to play this year and face those areas head-on.’’

Tonight for Game 1, Seguin will be a healthy scratch, as he was for seven regular-season games. As a rookie, Seguin had 11 goals and 11 assists while averaging 12:12 of ice time per game. He led the Bruins with four shootout goals on eight attempts. He joined Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara for the All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C., where he participated in the SuperSkills competition.

Aesthetically, Seguin showed an exquisite blend of explosive skating and quick-strike shooting.

But the sexy parts of Seguin’s game didn’t overcome his shortcomings in grit, determination, courage, and hockey sense. Too often, Seguin peeled away from races, hesitated in the danger zones, and coughed up pucks in areas where responsibility is expected from a consistent NHL player.

“I have to get more involved in plays,’’ Seguin acknowledged after the regular-season home finale. “Whether it’s fishing for pucks or just having a strong stick. That’s something I’ve had to adapt to and keep learning.’’

During his draft year in junior hockey, Seguin exploded for 48 goals and 58 assists. He was so good and so fast that he often blew past and skated around the blue-collar areas like a Porsche sprinting through a detour. He was like a 6-foot-10-inch high school basketball stud who could dunk over everybody with ease. But in the NHL, even athletic freaks require smarts and toughness.

Bruins management and the coaching staff were quick to cite Seguin’s age and inexperience all season. Coach Claude Julien repeatedly expressed his faith that Seguin will become a great NHLer. But if Seguin doesn’t learn from his hard-knocks rookie season, there is no guarantee his talent and pedigree can emerge to make him the Steven Stamkos-Pat LaFontaine hybrid Chiarelli once projected him to become.

The ideal situation would have been for Seguin to play for Providence this season. There, he could have competed against players who were older, stronger, and smarter than the boys he dominated in junior. But NHL rules don’t allow former junior players to play in the AHL until they turn 20. Had Seguin played college hockey last season — he would have been a freshman at Michigan — he could have been in Providence this year.

Instead, Seguin had to battle against men with beards, children, and mortgages. More often than not, things didn’t go his way,

“The areas he had to get better in,’’ said Chiarelli, “you don’t get better in unless you’re playing against bigger, stronger players.’’

Seguin will sit tonight. Injuries, however, are sure to strike. When that happens, the Bruins hope the rookie will be ready.

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