Tyler Seguin up to speed for Bruins
It's understandable that the second-year forward is continually asked about his "confidence" and how "comfortable" he is this season. It's obvious in the early going that he's made leaps and bounds from where he was a year ago.
Being asked about "how comfortable and confident I am is worse than hearing 'Tyler or Taylor,'" Seguin said, referring to himself and Taylor Hall.
Leading up to the 2010 NHL draft there was an enormous amount of attention focused on whether Seguin or Hall, Tyler or Taylor, would be selected as the No. 1 overall pick. The Edmonton Oilers settled on Hall and the Bruins grabbed Seguin.
While Hall had a fine first season, the Oilers were, well, the Oilers, and Seguin and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Not bad for a rookie. Now that he's in his sophomore season and has quickly proved he won't be a disappointment, the last thing he wants to talk about is how comfortable and confident he is.
During his rookie season, Seguin averaged 17 minutes of ice time per game. Five games into the 2011-12 season, he's already surpassed that mark three times.
Coach Claude Julien's confidence in Seguin was apparent last week when top-line center David Krejci suffered a core injury and Julien slid Seguin into Krejci's spot between wingers Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. The threesome quickly meshed and has continued to work together the last two games.
Krejci skated on his own Monday morning prior to the team's practice, but he's doubtful to play on Tuesday against Carolina at TD Garden. Julien said Krejci is day to day.
Seguin clearly had no trouble getting up to speed with the top line, seemingly providing a glimpse at what the future could hold.
"They all have their strengths," Julien said. "The young kid has speed and the other guy [Krejci] has vision and is a great playmaker, so it gives us an opportunity to [see] what lies ahead for Tyler and what he's going to bring to this team down the road. He's only going to get better and it's certainly been an opportunity for Tyler to step in there and for us to see how he handles that. Right now he's having a lot of success on that line."
At Monday morning's practice at Ristuccia Arena, the top line, with Seguin in the middle, competed as if it were a playoff game. He knows his linemates will make him better.
"They open so much for you out there and I definitely feel comfortable with those guys," he said. "I'm actually happy to play wherever, but obviously playing on the top line has been good so far and it's good to have those guys open up the ice for you."
What about being confident and comfortable?
"Yeah, 100 percent," Seguin said. "Obviously I feel more comfortable from last year and even now with more ice time I feel more confident out there."
That was evident over the weekend against the Blackhawks when Horton notched his first goal of the season, with Seguin adding the assist. It's been a tough go for the Bruins' top line to start the season, but Seguin has added a spark during the absence of Krejci.
"Nathan has had a tough start to the season confidence-wise and no doubt those kind of things are good," Julien said of the forward scoring his first goal of the season. "It was nice to see, especially what he's been through, and even today at practice with Tyler in the middle is starting to build a little bit of chemistry. It's interesting to watch."
Seguin's rookie season was no doubt a difficult one, but it ended with the 19-year-old making a significant contribution during the Stanley Cup playoffs. He arrived at training camp in great shape and ready to prove he's prepared to take the next step.
Both Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli were pleased with Seguin's progress.
"I really liked Tyler's improvement so far," Julien said. "When you look at him from the beginning of last year and how he grew through the course of last season, and this year he came into camp with a lot of confidence. Sometimes that's what a year under your belt does, and not just a year but an experience of a lifetime in the playoffs."
Julien explained that Seguin is showing distinct improvements in areas that a season ago were a challenge for him. Now they seem to have become second nature.
"He's going and battling for pucks in the corners where last year we saw him, at times, kind of look over his shoulder. This is all a natural thing for a young player to make that jump to the NHL as an 18-year-old," Julien said. "He's much stronger. He's much more confident and as long as he's like that, his skills are starting to show even more."
Julien wasn't surprised Seguin had a strong training camp, but there are areas where he still needs to improve. If his progression continues and he can remain healthy, Seguin should have an even more productive season.
"To me he's been very confident and more comfortable in his skin," Chiarelli said. "Everything was new to him and this year he knows what to expect. He's obviously put in the work. He's got a good head on his shoulders and he knows that he has to continue to put in the work."
Just don't ask Seguin if he's comfortable and confident because it's clear that he is. He knows it. The Bruins know it. Taylor Hall probably knows it too.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.