When the Boston Bruins traded Tyler Seguin in July 2013, general manager Peter Chiarelli knew it was possible he'd blossom with the Dallas Stars.
"He's a tremendous package of skill and speed, so yes (his play) will go north," Chiarelli said at the time. "Tyler is a 21-year-old, he is a good kid, he's got a good heart and he is going to continue to grow up."
Seguin's play has improved so much that he's tied for second in the NHL in points. He means so much to the Stars that he's a Hart Trophy candidate and the only reason Dallas is even in contention.
"There's been stretches where he was the only one scoring, especially early in the year," general manager Jim Nill said. "If it wasn't for him scoring, we wouldn't even be talking about being in the playoff hunt right now."
With 28 goals and 28 assists, Seguin has put the Stars on his shoulders. Inconsistent goaltending and a young blue-line have caused plenty of problems, but the 23-year-old has been good enough to be a solution.
Seguin is responsible for creating more goals for his team than anyone except for Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. He has some help with captain Jamie Benn and former Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza, but the onus is on Seguin to lead the Stars' offence.
"I think I put a lot of pressure on myself," said Seguin, who leads Dallas in goals, game-winning goals, points and shots. "We do have a deep team and that's what helps us win games. The beginning of the year was a struggle for us, we're still trying to climb out of that, but we're feeling a lot more confident as of late."
The Stars are 10th in the Western Conference, one point behind the defending Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings for ninth and four points back of the Calgary Flames for the second wild-card spot. That's incredible considering goalies Kari Lehtonen, Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas have combined for the second-worst save percentage in the NHL at .896.
Seguin has a lot to do with getting the Stars in the playoff picture. Nill said Seguin continues to work on his defensive game and has been very receptive to instruction and criticism from Nill and coach Lindy Ruff.
One of the organization's instructions to Seguin after winning just 41.5 per cent of his faceoffs last season was to improve there, and he's converting at 51.3 per cent through almost 400 draws in 2014-15.
"I think his potential is untapped," Nill said. "I don't think Tyler realizes how good he can be. It's just going to kind of take time. He reminds me a lot of Steve Yzerman when I was in Detroit. They're so good offensively and so many tools and competitive and everything else, and now it's just learning the little parts of the game that make you one of the elite players in the game."
Nill said in a salary-cap league the Bruins had to make a decision on Seguin with so many other stars around. One day he hopes the Stars will be Cup contenders and face similar crossroads.
But Seguin isn't likely to be vulnerable, considering that he has gone from a piece on a winning team to a cornerstone player who makes a team win.
"He's on the path of Jonathan Toews and Kane and all these other guys have taken," Nill said. "In the end it's going to be his hard work and commitment that's going to decide how far he goes with it. He's got all the tools to be as good as anybody in the game."
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