By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
On June 25, 2010, hundreds of Boston Bruins fans crowded around a large television screen which had been set up right in the heart of Quincy Market. They weren’t there for any alumni game, parade, or fan-rally. They were there because it was the first night of the 2010 NHL Draft.
Highly touted prospects Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin were expected to be the first two players selected. And while the high-scoring winger Taylor Hall seemed to fill the role that the Bruins needed to address in the present, Tyler Seguin would certainly not be considered a disappointment as scouting reports suggested Seguin could develop into the a more well rounded player.
Fans watched as the Edmonton Oilers picked Hall first overall, and after the slightest of hesitations then decided to fully embrace Seguin as the newest addition to the Bruins.
Then there was training camp, where Seguin was all but a shoe-in for a roster spot. Whether or not he was truly NHL-ready, Boston decided that the best way for the 18 year old to adapt to professional hockey was to throw him in the deep end.
The future was bright, the expectations were very high, and the hope was that Tyler Seguin would make an immediate impact in his rookie season.
Meanwhile, under the radar, scrappy winger Brad Marchand was doing everything he could to make the cut. After appearing in 20 regular season games for Boston last season (0 G, 1A, 20 PIM), Marchand was projected to be another bubble player, making trips down I-95 between the big club and their minor league affiliate, the Providence Bruins.
One major key to his off-season development was that Marchand became determined to embrace the role that made him a successful player in Providence: an offensively talented player with a pension for getting under opponent’s skin.
Starting the year with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton on the ‘merlot’ line, Marchand began turning heads almost immediately. What was very clear early on was that Boston had its most effective pest since the days of Kenny Linesman.
With the roster set, the NHL season began in Prague for the Black and Gold. In game #2 of both the regular season, and his professional career, Tyler Seguin scored his first NHL goal in memorable fashion. Catching an aerial “hail Mary” pass from Michael Ryder and scoring on the breakaway.
While the season may have started just as Bruins fans expected, things began to shift in early November. Seguin started to struggle while adapting to the speed and intensity of the NHL.
Marchand, on the other hand, began to find his game and develop into a confident young player. He started scoring in bunches, and was moved up to Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi’s line, where a chemistry was formed that helped carry Boston through the regular season.
Through it all, Marchand maintained the sentiment that his only goal coming into the season was to stay in Beantown. He continued to play with a noticeable edge to his game, constantly walking the fine line between successful physical play and trips to the penalty box.
Seguin’s rookie year (To date, 72 GP, 11 G, 11 A, 16 PIM) was a bit of a roller coaster ride. Glimpses of game-changing ability mixed with a fair amount of first-year gaffes. In a single shift he could use his incredible speed to break into open ice and into the offensive zone, only to commit an ill-advised turnover by attempting a no-look, behind-the-back pass.
To Seguin’s credit, if he was experiencing any frustration, he did his best to not let it show. Healthy scratches, limited ice time, and reduced roles can shatter a player’s confidence. But for Seguin, he seemed to understand that in order to earn a role on a Stanley Cup contending team, such as Boston, he’d have to raise his game to the next level.
Towards the tail end of the season, Seguin began showing signs of great improvement. His two-way game had become more reliable, as he started to show more defensive awareness. The playmaking ability that made him such a highly regarded prospect started to show itself.
However, as Boston marches towards their quest for the Cup, proven veterans such as Daniel Paille and Michael Ryder just may force Seguin to take in the majority of the playoffs from high above the ice.
Tyler Seguin could very well be the future of the Boston Bruins, but Brad Marchand doesn’t seem to be willing to wait, as he’s made a bigger impact than anyone could have predicted in September.
On April 2nd, Marchand (To date: 76 GP, 20 G, 21 A, 51 PIM) was awarded Boston’s 2011 7th Player Award, given to the player who has surpassed all expectations for the season. It remains unlikely that the 22 year old winger will be able to squirm his way in Calder consideration, but it’s also hard to imagine either he or Seguin will be concerning themselves with post-season accomplishments while their team battles for the sport’s ultimate hardware.