WILMINGTON, Mass. – Tyler Seguin sped straight ahead, quickly shifted the puck to his backhand and flipped it over the goalie’s right shoulder and into the net.
From the packed stands, the chants came: “SAY-gihn, SAY-gihn, SAY-gihn.”
The second pick of last month’s NHL draft and a linchpin of the Boston Bruins effort to build their anemic offence took it all with a smile.
“At least they’re pronouncing my name right,” Seguin said Wednesday. “Usually if anyone’s talking about me it’s like suh-GWEEN-ee or SEE-gihn or something, but these guys had it right on point, so that was pretty cool.”
However it’s said, Seguin already is a big name in the hockey world.
He was the most outstanding player in the OHL with the Plymouth Whalers last season when he had 48 goals and 58 assists. His 106 points tied for the league’s scoring lead with Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires.
Hall, a physical left winger, was drafted first by the Edmonton Oilers. The smooth skating Seguin went next—a high scorer who brings excitement to the ice.
The crowd at Wednesday’s first skating day at the Bruins development camp ranged from infants to men of late middle age. Nearly every seat was filled for the first of two sessions—and it wasn’t just so fans could escape the 32 C temperature outside.
During the break, a line of about 20 cars jammed the narrow driveway from the Bruins’ practice facility north of Boston to the main road. Cars trying to enter had to wait.
“I was surprised,” Seguin said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is a pretty big turnout.’
“That just shows the market that I’m in here in Boston and how supportive the fans really are.”
Make no mistake, they were there to see Seguin. It was one of the biggest crowds—if not the biggest—to watch a Bruins development camp session since they drafted Joe Thornton with the first overall pick in 1997.
The Bruins scored the second-fewest goals in the NHL last season with 206. Seemingly headed to the Eastern Conference finals, they squandered a 3-0 lead and lost four consecutive games to the Philadelphia Flyers, losing the finale 4-3 after leading 3-0.
Seguin may have to make a transition to wing with the centre-rich Bruins. But his first skating session in a Bruins jersey was impressive.
“I never had seen him on the ice before,” said Joe Colborne, the Bruins’ top pick and the 16th overall in 2008 who hopes to make the team for the first time. “He’s an impressive player. He’s got some good hands, some good speed.
“He seems like the complete package.”
Jared Knight was drafted in the second round after playing against Seguin in the OHL with the London Knights.
“I thought we worked pretty well together out there today,” Knight said. “As an opponent, it was tough.
“You always have to keep your head up and see where he is because he’s always doing a little shoulder deke. … You’ve just got to be on him at all times.”
Still, the Bruins are being cautious about putting too much pressure on the 18-year-old Seguin, the youngest player in camp. The playoffs ended less than a month ago and the next season is still three months away.
His chances of being on the opening day roster seem solid, but there’s no guarantee.
“Nothing’s settled and everything will probably settle in when I’m a year or two in my career,” he said. “That’s when I can actually sit back, relax and say I have a spot on this team, but right now I’m just trying to impress the (team officials) in the stands.”
They already were impressed enough to draft him at No. 2 after watching him play on video and in person.
“He does things at full speed, so that’s going to create a lot of anxiety for all defencemen,” assistant general manager Don Sweeney said.
But for now, with just one day of skating in a Bruins No. 57 practice jersey instead of the No. 19 he was given for the real games, Seguin’s simply getting used to a new environment and making sure the Boston braintrust knows it chose the right player.
“This is more introducing what it’s like to almost play in the NHL and what expectations are going to be,” Seguin said. “So this week I’m just trying to learn everything I can.”