When the Windsor Spitfires and Plymouth Whalers square off in their OHL semifinal series that starts Thursday night (7 p.m. ET), it will mark the beginning of what could be an epic seven-game series between top Entry Draft prospects Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.
Windsor's Hall and Plymouth's Seguin finished tied for scoring lead in the OHL with 106 points. Hall achieved the mark in 57 games; Seguin in 63.
Hall and Seguin have continued their scoring heroics in the playoffs. Hall led the Spitfires with 6 goals and 10 points, while Seguin scored 5 goals and 10 points for the Whalers, who also had terrific production from Phil McRae (6-5-11) and Ryan Hayes (4-7-11) in the first round. Zack Kassian and Dale Mitchell had identical 2-4-6 totals in the first round.
Windsor, the top seed, advanced with a first-round sweep of the Erie Otters, while Plymouth, the fourth seed, eliminated the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in five games.
"There's a lot of stuff that comes out, but it comes down to two teams," Hall said. "I want to be on the team that comes out of this with a series win."
Taylor Hall (Courtesy: Windsor Spitfires)
The Spitfires finished 27 points ahead of the Whalers during the regular season and are have their sights set on a second-straight run at the Memorial Cup. The Whalers gained confidence from taking Windsor to six games in the second round last spring.
Windsor won the regular-season series with Plymouth, 5-2-0-1. Hall was the Spitfires' top scorer in those eight games with 13 points, while Justin Shugg scored nine times against Plymouth this season. For Plymouth, Seguin posted 6 goals and 11 points in seven games against Windsor.
NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings have Hall listed as the No. 1 prospect for this year's draft and Seguin No. 2. Windsor defenseman Cam Fowler, who posted 8 goals and 47 assists along with a plus-38, is ranked No. 3 by Central Scouting.
NHL teams will be watching the series closely to chart Hall and Seguin in what figures to be a pressure-packed series.
"I don't think, since I've been a part of Central Scouting, have I seen two guys as close as Hall and Seguin," Central Scouting goalie scout Al Jensen during the CSS ranking meetings.
2010 NHL ENTRY DRAFT
Invitation list out for Scouting Combine
By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Staff Writer NHL Central Scouting has sent out its coveted invitations to this year's Scouting Combine only to the 100 best prospects. READ MORE ›
"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."
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 career regular-season games. Seguin has 69 goals and 173 points in 124 games.
"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."
"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 admitted. "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."