TORONTO -- So … will it be Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin?
That's what NHL Central Scouting determines this week when evaluations are made and the final list for the top draft-eligible North American players is produced before the 2010 Entry Draft at Staples Center in Los Angeles is staged June 25-26.
The scouts assembled at the Conn Smythe Board Room here in the NHL offices at Air Canada Centre were energetic and in top form on the opening day of discussion and debate. They hit on the pros and cons of the top players from each of the leagues around North America while Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire presided as mediator.
McGuire set the tone early Sunday morning when he announced that the argument for Hall or Seguin would "probably rage all afternoon."
Unlike the previous two seasons, when Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and New York Islanders' John Tavares were unanimous choices at the top in 2008 and '09, respectively, it wasn't that easy this year.
"In past years, we've said 'All right … who'll be second to (Sidney) Crosby,' and moved on to second without telling each other how good Crosby was," McGuire told NHL.com. "I think even if a team might know they have the first pick overall might still call a timeout on (June 25), because it's that close with Seguin and Hall."
"I don't think, since I've been a part of Central Scouting, have I seen two guys as close as Hall and Seguin," said Central Scouting goalie scout Al Jensen during the meeting.
Few would argue that either Hall, of the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires or Seguin of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers will earn the top slot when all is said and done. The final ranking list will be released April 7.
Hall and Seguin finished in a dead heat for the OHL regular-season scoring title with 106 points apiece. Hall had 40 goals in 57 games, while Seguin scored 48 goals in 63 games. It marked the third time in the league's 76-year history that the scoring title was shared. The first stalemate occurred in 1971-72, when Toronto's Dave Gardner tied teammate Bill Harris with 129 points.
Harris was drafted first overall by the New York Islanders in the 1972 Amateur Draft and Gardner would follow seven picks later when the Montreal Canadiens tabbed him with the eighth selection.
It happened again in 1973-74 when Sault Ste. Marie's Jack Valiquette equaled St. Catharines' Rick Adduono with 135 points. Valiquette was drafted 13th by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the '74 Amateur Draft and Adduono 60th (fourth round) by the Boston Bruins in '75.
So, what are the qualifications to becoming the No. 1 prospect on Central Scouting's final list? First and foremost, players need to prove their ability with impressive numbers. Hall has accrued 123 goals and 280 points in 183 regular-season games. Seguin has 69 goals and 173 points in 124 contests.
"You obviously have to be the best player in the draft if you're the No. 1 guy," OHL scout Chris Edwards said. "Everyone in the world is going to be beating it to death and have an opinion, but both these guys have produced so well. You don't see their type of production that often. If you want to take it one step further, this is Taylor Hall's third year in the league and Seguin's second, and I don't think Seguin will be getting a chance to play a third year. There are many ways to spin it, but someone has to be No. 1 and we'll do the best job we can to provide honest opinions and then it's out of our hand."
Hall and Seguin also are neck-and-neck in the OHL playoff scoring race. Hall has 6 goals and 10 points in four games, while Seguin has generated 5 goals and 10 points in five games.
"What the cross-over scouts have to say on each of the players might be the straw that breaks the Ontario Hockey League's back (as far as ranking Seguin and Hall) with regard to determining No. 1 overall for us," McGuire said.
"Whether you're picking No. 1 or No. 2, you're getting one hell of a hockey player," Edwards said. "I'd even say if you get a top-five pick, you're probably getting a player who can step in and play for you next year and produce. It's close, but that's what we'll determine at our meetings."
If the Edmonton Oilers are awarded the top pick at the Entry Draft, it'll be interesting to see how long the selection takes once they're on the clock. Do they take the right handed-shooting center in Seguin, or the left-handed left wing in Hall?
"Edmonton is an organization with a lot of top-end wingers and Hall is a winger," WHL scout Peter Sullivan said. "Everybody is thinking Hall will still go No. 1 despite team needs. If you have five top wingers in the organization but don't have anyone to dish them the puck, what happens? Fact is, Seguin can do everything, but it's up to them to decide which route they are going to take."
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