Anytime a hockey team changes coaches, it can create a difficult situation that can affect every member of the roster. A new coach means new ideas, new plans and even new line combinations. It can make for a stressful time.
For some, though, that stress can end up being a good thing. It certainly was for Tyler Seguin
Seguin, a forward with the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, was the biggest beneficiary of his team changing coaches last season, and his outstanding play as an OHL rookie has carried over to an explosive start to the 2009-10 campaign.
Through his first 10 games, Seguin has league-highs of 14 goals and 25 points, opening the eyes of scouts rating talent for the 2010 Entry Draft.
"That's pretty unbelievable," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "I can't think of anybody that's had that kind of production. (John) Tavares, (Eric) Lindros, they may have."
After a slow start to the 2008-09 season, Seguin said he was determined to have a stronger start this season.
"It was one of my big goals," he told NHL.com. "Last year I didn't have the best of starts, didn't score until a good 10, 12 games into the season."
Actually, he had one goal in his first 17 games. But that's when coach Greg Stefan left to take a scouting job with the Carolina Hurricanes
. He was replaced by club president and GM Mike Vellucci
on Nov. 10. Vellucci shuffled the lines, putting Seguin on the club's top line, with Chris Terry
and Matt Caria.
"We had a good coach before, but he didn't really give the rookies a lot of opportunities to earn our spots," Seguin said. "When Mike came in he put me on the top line and let me earn my way. I really liked that way."
Seguin certainly earned his spot. After scoring just 9 points in his first 17 games, he exploded under Vellucci. In his final 44 games, he had 20 goals and 58 points, including an 18-game point-scoring streak, the longest among OHL rookies and third-longest in the league.
"He's a very good player," Vellucci told NHL.com. "He had a great rookie year for us last year. Once we put him on the top two lines, put him with more skilled players, he took off last year. ... His skill is second to none, but his desire is what separates him from other guys. He's the ultimate competitor that wants to be a great player, not just a good player."
After helping the Whalers to the second round of the OHL playoffs last season, Seguin said he took three days off for a family fishing trip, and spent the rest of his offseason in the gym and on the ice.
"This summer I think I put on about 15 pounds of muscle," said Seguin, who measured in at a shade under 6-1 and 180 pounds. "I was in the gym 4-5 days a week and I did that for about a month right after the season and a month right after I got home (to Brampton, Ont.). Being in the (U.S.), I had to stay and finish high school and we'd get to the rink 2-3 times a week here." In Brampton, he would be in the gym in the morning and spend the rest of the day working at a goaltending camp, where he'd shoot pucks at the students all day long, further honing his shot.
With all that time on the ice over the summer, it's no wonder he was one of the stars of Canada's team at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka
Tournament in August. Playing on a line with John McFarland
and Tyler Toffoli
, Seguin led the team with 7 assists and 10 points in four games as Canada won the gold medal.
"His skill is second to none, but his desire is what separates him from other guys. He's the ultimate competitor that wants to be a great player, not just a good player."
-- Plymouth coach Mike Vellucci
Vellucci said he isn't at all surprised by Seguin's strong play.
"I knew he was a great player, knew he had the skill level to do it," he said. "The surprise to me is he has the determination and the heart for it. He never stops moving on the ice, even in practice. He's always moving, trying to get better. That's what surprises me. Surprised by his talent and ability? No, but by how much he wants it."
The departures of Terry and Caria to the American Hockey League provided another bit of motivation for Seguin.
"At the end of last year I kept hearing the jokes form the locker room and from my buddies, you're going to be by yourself," said Seguin. "That was one of the big things I wanted to shove in people's face, I don't really need those two top players to play my game."
Playing this season with Myles McCauley and Tyler G. Brown, Seguin hasn't missed a beat.
"He brings out the best in both of them," said Vellucci. "He sees the ice so well. He's a great playmaker. And with his speed and skill and puckhandling skill, he opens up the ice. The defense has to concentrate on him and he's helped bring their games to the next level."
"At the end of last year I kept hearing the jokes fromm the locker room and from my buddies, you're going to be by yourself. That was one of the big things I wanted to shove in people's face, I don't really need those two top players to play my game." - Tyler Seguin
The early favorite to be the top pick of the 2010 draft is the Windsor Spitfires' Taylor Hall. Seguin knows all about Hall. The Spitfires ended the Whalers' season in the OHL playoffs last season, and in the clubs' season opener in Windsor, Hall had a hat trick plus an assist, but Seguin had 2 goals plus another in the shootout (Hall missed his try) as the Whalers skated away with a 6-5 victory. With 22 points in 11 games, Hall is second to Seguin in the league scoring race.
Seguin said his line was matched against Hall's on opening night, and they did exchange some words, but all in the heat of the game and Seguin said he has nothing but respect for Hall. That being said, Seguin makes no bones about his desire to hear his name called first in June.
"Taylor Hall is a great player," said Seguin. "He's in a pretty good situation being on that top team. ... Taylor Hall has the top spot locked down, but my whole life I've been driven to be No. 1 and that's my goal."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.