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Kalman: Seguin’s Future Bright With Bruins, Though Year 3 Will Be Toughest Test Yet

By Matt Kalman, CBSBoston
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Tyler Seguin  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Tyler Seguin (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Boston Bruins

BOSTON (CBS) — So far, you’re can’t argue with the Bruins’ approach to developing Tyler Seguin.

Realizing how fortunate they were to land the 2010 No. 2 overall pick while still being among the league’s elite – a fact proven by their triumphant run to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship – the Bruins determined that they would mold Seguin into an all-around player instead of just a sniper.

There was no pressure to grant Seguin a ton of ice time and let him run wild. While the likes of Taylor Hall, John Tavares and other prized high draft picks got to join floundering organizations and rack up numbers for losing outfits, there are questions about how much those players are difference-makers and whether they’ll ever turn around those organizations’ fortunes.

With Seguin, the Bruins saw a player they could be patient with and develop into the type of player they create in the image they have for an NHL star (a two-way standout) and build around years down the road.

From Seguin’s rookie year, when he was cast in a supporting role, to his sophomore season, the plan mostly stayed on the right track. It’ll now be up to Seguin to make sure Year 3, which will be the toughest one yet, advances his maturation even further.

“I thought I improved in a lot of areas this year,” Seguin said when asked to assess this second season. “Going into this year was really my D-zone and my compete and battle level [I wanted to improve], and I thought those got really improved this year. I still want to continue to improve. I think I got rewarded with some production this year a lot more than last year. So that’s definitely something I’ll keep working on and go from here.”

There’s no doubt Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli believes all is right when it comes to Seguin. The GM said Seguin’s “on the path of becoming a star in this league” at the team’s breakup day, just days after Boston’s bitter seven-game loss to Washington in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Head coach Claude Julien also acknowledged Seguin’s improvement, both with his words (pointing out how impressive it is for a 20-year-old to lead the team in scoring) and with his lineups that more often than not featured Seguin on Patrice Bergeron’s right wing on a line that often matched up against other teams’ top trios. There’s no bigger vote of confidence for Seguin’s improved defense than that decision by Julien.

Now that Seguin has the gist of defensive hockey in the NHL, it’ll be up to him to continue to improve in that area. But he’ll also have to avoid neglecting the offensive improvements he has to make, which were evident during some regular-season slumps and in the postseason. There’ll be no taking other teams by surprise anymore for Seguin. And although the Bruins are likely to surround him with plenty of support offensively – with the return of Nathan Horton to join Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Brad Marchand (not to mention a possible offseason addition and the arrival of a prospect or two) – as a player who was drafted so high, and has the type of talents scouts brag about, and wears No. 19 because he fashions himself a would-be Steve Yzerman, Seguin’s going to be the focal point.

While he’ll still be expected to take care of his own end, he’ll probably be cast in a much more offensive role, either as a top-line winger, or as the team’s top center depending on how personnel maneuvers pan out in the offseason.

“The one thing we don’t want to take away is his offensive talent and his skill and we’ll always push for that to be the first and foremost thing from his game,” Julien said.

Seguin said he’s going to strengthen his core some more this summer so he’ll be better able to battle along the boards. He’s taken the lesson about missing a team meeting in Winnipeg to heart, and there were no public discipline issues the rest of his sophomore season. In addition to 67 points, he put up a plus-34 rating. And his goals in Game 6 and 7 of the Capitals series showed how many of the lessons of his first two seasons he’s putting into use.

Although the learning process never ends, patience does. Seguin will have to further limit his on- and off-ice mistakes next season and make a similar leap from this year to next as he did his rookie to second season in order to validate the Bruins’ plan for him and, more importantly, make the Bruins a team that doesn’t fall on its face in the 2013 playoffs.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operatesTheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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