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Tyler Seguin Showing He Can Play Well on Both Sides of the Puck

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

It was a no-brainer that Tyler Seguin would be headed to Columbus this weekend to play at the NHL All-Star game.

Just look at the numbers. He’s tied for the NHL lead in goals with 28 and ranks second in points with 52. He’s on pace for a career year in both categories.

“We’re proud of Segy for the first half of the year that he’s had, and I think the sky’s the limit for him,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “He’s a competitive kid. He’s got unbelievable talent, and I think it’s good that he’s pushing himself and those are big honors. It’s not easy to be an All-Star in this league. It’s not easy to score the amount of goals he’s scoring, and we’re happy for him. We want to keep him going.”

Or you can just watch him play. There’s the dazzling speed, slick skills, and booming shot. When he’s at the top of his game, he can be worth the price of admission on his own.

“It’s hard to find someone that is shooting the puck as well as he is and skating as well as he is,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

But there are little things that help hockey teams win, too, and that is where Seguin is working hard to improve, and he is making strides. He’s relished taking on the added responsibilities of being a center and is striving to become a guy who can be counted on at both ends of the ice.

“He raised his game to another level,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “He just keeps working towards being a top center in this league. I think he’s up there now. He’s definitely a little more mature now, [has] a little more responsibility, and I think he’s turning into a bit of a leader on this team.”

Seguin primarily played right wing during his first three years in the league with the Boston Bruins, who were deep at center. But the Stars, who were looking to beef up the center position, switched Seguin to the middle after acquiring him from Boston in a blockbuster seven-player deal in July 2013. It was a big change for the young forward, and Ruff said he likes Seguin’s determination in taking on the challenge.

“I think there’s areas besides scoring where he can raise his game. And he’s working at that, which that’s the part I love about him,” Ruff said. “There is a willingness to want to stay in the middle and you have to accept that challenge of getting better if you want to stay there. He’s accepted that challenge. He wants to be a centerman.”

Part of the challenge is becoming a better two-way player and finding a way to impact the game beyond blasting pucks into the opposition’s net, especially when pucks may not be finding the back of net.

“You always want to improve,” Seguin said. “[Playing a two-way game] is important. I think a big thing with growing is not getting frustrated when it is not going in every night for you. You’ve got to focus on the details of the game and play that 200-foot style of game and things will come.”

It’s a message that Ruff continues to stress not only to Seguin, but the team as a whole. Play well in the defensive zone and it will create more opportunities in the offensive end. It’s creating offense from defense, not exactly a radical philosophy in hockey.

“Every coach in this league preaches that,” said Ruff. “That’s the understanding that you try to give to every player. The better you play in your own end, the less time we will spend there and the more opportunity we are going to have in the other end.”

Seguin is not only an option when the Stars are pushing for a goal late in a game, but he can be an option when the Stars are protecting a late lead as well. While Ruff praised Seguin for the progress he’s made, the Dallas coach is constantly pushing the 22-year-old for more.

“There are nights when his D zone play is errorless and there are nights where he misses some assignments. … but those are getting fewer to where he was at last year.” Ruff said. “I’d still like to see him be just a little bit more physical when it comes to the defensive zone coverage where more than just a stick fight, you end up with a little bit of body positioning and trying to knock somebody off the puck. His reads when it comes to once the puck gets up to the point, finding his coverage, is another area that I think he’s improved. He’s been able to box out, and I think it’s helped him.

Seguin has made big strides in one key area and that his the faceoff circle. Last year, he won 41.5 percent of his faceoffs. This year, that number has climbed to 51.4 percent. It’s not by accident. Again, Seguin put in the work and continues to put in the work.

“I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be until I played it last year,” Seguin said. “I finished at 41 or 42 percent of draws and this year I am above 50, so I am happy about that. I did a lot of studying thanks to our video coach over the summer and it’s paid off.”

And that’s allowed Ruff to use Seguin on key faceoffs at key times in games.

“For me, it is just being coachable,” said Ruff. “You are never going to perfect this game, but I have asked some guys for progress, make progress in these areas. I am not asking you to be perfect. You are never going to be a perfect defender, but I want progress. But it started early last year where I couldn’t put him in for some faceoffs, and now I’ve put him in the D zone for some real important faceoffs. That’s the reward for getting your numbers going in the right direction.”

And Seguin is getting rewarded for what has been a superb season with his appearance in Columbus this weekend. It’s his second trip to the All-Star game. He went in 2012 as well. But he’s a different player now, one who is relishing more responsibility. It’s a sign of how well things have worked out in his first season-and-a-half in Dallas.

“I think I am almost two different people now,” Seguin said. “Now that I am here in Dallas, I feel that my game has grown and my maturation has grown as well. I am happier.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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