For the second straight season, Bruins forward Tyler Seguin will be heading to NHL All-Star weekend, Jan. 26 in Ottawa, but this time he'll be there as an All-Star and not for the rookie competition.
Seguin was named to the All-Star team thanks to a breakout season that has him leading his team in points and goals, and more importantly playing and acting like a professional hockey player.
In one season, Seguin has gone from a frequent healthy scratch -- a player who had trouble on defense, and admittedly a teenager struggling to adapt to an adult world -- to a legitimate NHL All-Star.
"It wasn't easy on me last year, I can definitely admit that," Seguin said. "I was used to being the top guy all the time in juniors and now I'm being scratched for the first time in my life, and more than once or twice. So to have guys like Bergy and Rex around for me through that and helping me understand why I was being scratched and what I needed to do to be better was huge. I can't thank them enough. I mean, to be able to let alone play with a future Hall of Famer like Mark Recchi but also learn how to be a pro from him and how to do the little things to be better was just amazing. Then to still be playing with a guy like Bergy this season, who is a true pro too, has made me just want to elevate my game and be the best I can be."
Head coach Claude Julien also pointed to Recchi and Bergeron as huge factors in Seguin's progression on and off the ice.
"I think they certainly led by example even on the ice," Julien said of Recchi and Bergeron. "Even Mark at the age of 43 was a hard-working guy in practice. He went to the front of the net, he got pucks and he never stayed away from the dirty work. He certainly showed an example. We also know Bergy is one of the hardest workers as well, so he had two great examples. But more so when you look at those two guys off the ice. And I'm sure some of the chats that Rex had with Siggy [Seguin] ... about his career and where as a young player he thinks he has a lot of time and before you know it, it's done, so cherish the moment. Then you look at Bergy and how he prepares each day and Bergy's still a young player. So [Seguin] has had some great examples and certainly benefited from that and is probably a better player today for it."
Ironically and despite having an All-Star-worthy season, Bergeron wasn't chosen for the All-Star Game and many in the league, including Seguin, believe the consummate two-way player was snubbed. Seguin feels for his teammate, especially considering the fact he was selected and Bergeron wasn't.
"Yeah. Even going into the final few days before they made the announcement and we knew it was coming, everyone in here expected Bergy to be there and I thought it was a no-brainer he'd be there, and yeah, it's tough that I made it and he didn't," Seguin said. "I honestly feel bad because he should really be there before me. He is the best all-around player on our team and one of the best in the NHL."
But since becoming a Bruin, Seguin has learned that being named to an All-Star team doesn't always dictate a player's worth. Bergeron's leadership and work habits have rubbed off on Seguin and the youngster is thrilled to have him as a mentor.
"He's obviously a true leader and he's got six or seven years on me but he's still young, so to have a guy be a leader like that at such a young age is great and good for me at my age," Seguin said. "He's there for me on and off the ice and I just try and watch him, listen to him and then analyze all that and put it into my game. Whether it's his leadership qualities or his practice habits or just the way he plays. His positioning is so sound and he's such a competitor out there, so yeah, it's an honor to play with him and a great privilege as well because I'm learning so much from him every day."
Bergeron has enjoyed helping and watching Seguin develop and find his game. Some around the team have questioned Seguin's work ethic at times, but Bergeron said he has never seen that as an issue with Seguin.
"First off that's flattering and it's nice to hear," Bergeron said when told of Seguin's praise for him. "I think we all help each other on the ice, though. He's been great and he's working so hard to get better every day. Every shift he is back checking a lot and it's those little details to your game that matter that he's doing now. Maybe some people don't see it but we all see it as teammates and I think it goes a long way. It's nice to see and then to hear him crediting me is nice, but he's doing the work and he deserves credit for it."
Bergeron said he believes the experience of winning the Stanley Cup as an 18-year-old last season is another major reason Seguin is having such a great season. Learning firsthand what it takes to reach the pinnacle of the game for an NHL player is invaluable, Bergeron said, and that's why he expected a much more confident Seguin this season.
"He's matured and he's learning the ropes quickly," Bergeron said. "I'm not surprised either, because last year we won the Cup and you can't really ask for a better experience as a rookie than winning the Cup. He got to learn how to win, learn how to be professional and that's how he learned how to be a better player. So that was a great learning experience for him and I knew he'd come in this season and be a lot more confident with the puck and without and also with the guys in the dressing room."
Just as Seguin marvels at Bergeron's game and his professionalism, Bergeron catches himself being amazed at Seguin's skills.
"His speed is probably something we noticed right away, but yeah that shot he has is so deceptive and hard," Bergeron said. "You don't expect it to be that hard and fast with that quick release. You kind of expect him to be a playmaker but he has both assets and that's great."
While Recchi may not be in the dressing room or around the team anymore, he is still watching closely from afar and, according to Seguin, is still there for advice.
"Rex always sends me congratulations texts and congratulated me on [the All-Star selection] obviously, but he's always in touch encouraging me," Seguin said. "He's like a big brother and coach. He knows the game so well but he also cares about me as a person, too. It was pretty special too to be able to play and win a Cup with him in his last year, too."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.