After 10 months of debate, the largest question surrounding the 2010 Entry Draft is about to be answered -- Tyler or Taylor?
Edmonton Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini, the only person with the power to answer that question, will make his way to the podium at Staples Center on June 25 (7 p.m ET, VERSUS, TSN) and pick between the two dynamic Ontario Hockey League scorers.
Will the Oilers opt for Tyler Seguin? All the Plymouth Whalers center did was tie for the OHL scoring title with 106 points; score 48 goals, more than double his next-closest teammate; win the OHL MVP and be named the Canadian Hockey League's award for best professional prospect.
Seguin also is rated the No. 1 North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
"I think it's two main reasons," Seguin told NHL.com when asked why he should be the first pick. "First off is my improvement level. I came into the (OHL draft) ninth overall, and I kept on getting better through my rookie year and this year. Secondly, I think if you're going to go first overall to a market like Edmonton you're going to be in the spotlight, and you have to be able to handle that pressure. I came into this season not knowing what the pressure feels like but I thought I adapted and handled it well, and was still able to perform."
The scouts certainly agreed.
"Tyler Seguin makes things happen every time he is on the ice and he makes his teammates better," said Central Scouting's OHL scout, Chris Edwards.
His main competition for the top spot, Windsor Spitfires left wing Taylor Hall, also performed admirably. Hall tied Seguin for the OHL scoring title, led the league in playoff scoring for a second straight year, helped the Spitfires become the first repeat Memorial Cup champion in 15 years and became the first player in the 92-year history of the event to win a second consecutive MVP award.
Hall also had 6 goals and 12 points in six games to help Canada to a silver medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship. He's No. 2 on Central Scouting's list.
"When you talk about Hall, you talk about quickness, acceleration and hands," said NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire.
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"I have the tenacity, I have the speed, I have the skill to do it," Hall told NHL.com when asked why he should be picked first. "If Edmonton feels I'm their guy, I'm going to try make that organization as best I can, try to help them from the shape they're in. If I'm not, I'm not going to be too depressed. It would be a great accomplishment to go No. 1. I think I've worked pretty hard for it."
If you ask 10 scouts who they would take, you might get a split vote.
"The full season of body of work that said he (Seguin) is going to be a great player in the National Hockey League," McGuire told NHL.com. "So is Taylor Hall. In our mind, other than the position, they are equal.
Tambellini has played things pretty close, entertaining both players in recent weeks so as not to tip his hand.
"Our scouting staff has an extensive book on both players," Tambellini told NHL.com. "Over the last year and a half I've sat down and had dinner with both of them individually, gotten to know them as people. They're both great people. Any team is going to be so fortunate to get either of those two players."
Seguin and Hall aren't the only big-time scorers available. Right behind the big two is Prince George Cougars right wing Brett Connolly. Central Scouting's No. 3-rated player skated in just 16 games due to a pair of hip injuries, but his talent level is unquestioned.
"When he's playing healthy he's definitely a dominant player," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald, who covers the WHL, told NHL.com.
Taylor Hall (OHL Images)
Other snipers who should hear their names called early include Medicine Hat Tigers right wing Emerson Etem, who grew up minutes away from the Staples Center in Long Beach; Kitchener Rangers center Jeff Skinner, who had 50 goals in the regular season and another 20 in 20 playoff games; Portland Winterhawks teammates center Ryan Johansen and right wing Nino Niederreiter; Peterborough Petes forward Austin Watson; and Barrie Colts center Alexander Burmistrov.
Much like the race for top pick has been a two-horse race, there's a similar battle brewing over who the first goaltender selected will be. The Seattle Thunderbirds' Calvin Pickard is ranked No. 1 by Central Scouting, despite putting up less than stellar numbers for a subpar Seattle team. He won just 16 games, but the Thunderbirds won just 19. Pickard faced at least 40 shots in a game 20 times and more than 50 four times -- winning three and losing a fourth in overtime.
Campbell, Central Scouting's No. 2 goalie, posted better stats playing with the U.S. National Team program, but his most impressive number is three -- as in, three gold medals in three straight major international events. He backstopped the U.S. to wins at the last two World Under-18 Championships, and in between he was the winning goaltender in the Americans' memorable gold-medal defeat of Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championship.
Pickard is regarded as the more technically sound goalie, while Campbell relies more on his size (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) and athleticism. Both are considered first-round material.
"Pickard offers more of a calm, relaxed, positional style and is very confident," Al Jensen, Central Scouting's goaltender scout, told NHL.com. "Campbell is the more the athletic, quick, reaction-style goalie who can make that huge, big save that could make a difference."
The first round also could see a few European players selected. Finnish center Mikael Granlund is Central Scouting's highest-rated European skater and is projected by many to be picked in the top half of the first round. Also highly regarded is a pair of Russian forwards, Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Another foreign-born player teams are taking a close look at is forward Kirill Kabanov. The Moscow native's skill level is high, but questions surround his leaving Moncton three games into the QMJHL playoffs and subsequent dismissal from Russia's World Under-18 Championship team for what the coach called discipline reasons.
"The kid's got a gift, he can score goals," San Jose Sharks Director of Scouting Tim Burke told NHL.com. "Sometimes with goal scorers you have to put up with that a little bit."
But not without some extra investigative work.
"It comes down to homework," Atlanta Thrashers GM Rick Dudley told NHL.com. "And you have to do a lot of it."
That could change, however, if some of the rumored trades come about. Tuesday, the Panthers acquired the No. 15 pick, as well as defenseman Dennis Wideman, from Boston in exchange for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell. And Wednesday saw the Blackhawks pick up the 24th pick from Atlanta as part of the deal that sent away three players off their Stanley Cup championship roster.
Other players that could find new addresses during the two days of the draft include Ottawa center Jason Spezza, Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle, Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray and Boston goaltender Tim Thomas; the rights to players who could become free agents on July 1 also could get moved.
"Some teams have cap issues, some people have budget issues," Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told NHL.com, "so because of that I would suspect that you will see more movement and more activity."
One thing that won't happen is the No. 1 pick getting moved. Tambellini has said he'd the deal would have to be overwhelming to get him to move out of the top spot.
"We're getting lots of calls on how people can help our hockey club," Tambellini said with a laugh recently on NHL Live! "It's a tough year but the reward for the first pick overall … I can't tell you how excited this market is. You go through airports, baggage check people are asking, Taylor or Tyler, which one."
Like the baggage handlers in Edmonton, we'll all find out soon enough.