SEGUIN AND HALL: HYPE, HOOPLA AND PROJECTIONS

2010 Home Hardware CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game

If the Edmonton Oilers want to draft the player likeliest to have the biggest impact in the NHL next season, they can end any mystery now and announce they’ll be selecting Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires in June, should they retain the No. 1 pick in the lottery.

If you’re projecting three, five or even seven years down the road — which is what the NHL Entry Draft is about  — you can make a case Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers is the name Oilers’ chief scout Stu MacGregor should call at the podium in Los Angeles.

With little to separate, Hall, who tallied 40-66-106 in 57 games in his third OHL season with Windsor, and Seguin, who had 48-58-106 in 63 games in his second season with Plymouth, in Central Scouting Service rankings, any rankings for that matter, MacGregor and the Oilers have a decision to make. Hall or Seguin?

The next step in that decision-making process begins in the second round of the OHL playoffs in Windsor Thursday when Hall and Seguin go head-to-head as the Spitfires face the Whalers.

I wrote not long ago I believed the Oilers were leaning toward Hall, a dynamic left winger who is less than three months older than Seguin, but has one full OHL season more on his resume. If the Oilers want the player who is most NHL ready now — which doesn’t preclude him from staying a tick ahead of Seguin five or seven years down the road — then he’s the guy.

But, if MacGregor and the Oilers scouting staff think Seguin, who fits an obvious need at centre, projects better beyond the next couple of training camps when, successful rebuild willing, this franchise is on the upswing, well, duh, he’s the guy.

While that’s an obvious conclusion, deciding who’ll be better when the puck drops in 2012-13 isn’t so easy. When it comes to Hall and Seguin, consensus among the Oilers scouting staff has been elusive. I can’t say for sure what they’re thinking. I don’t know if they can, either.

I don’t know what MacGregor’s call will be, let alone if he’ll get it right, which is the object of the exercise.

Head-to-head

"Hall is the easy pick. I understand that," MacGregor said. "But, you want to make the pick that makes you better for a long time.

"So, maybe the other guy isn’t quite as developed as Hall is. It’s easy to say, ‘Taylor Hall,’ and then you move on. It depends where you want this thing to go.

"The idea of the process we’re now going through is to make sure we make unemotional decisions. We make decisions based on the best thing for this hockey club moving forward and projecting this player."

MacGregor, going into his third Entry Draft as chief scout and a hockey man I’ve known since the New York Islanders got it wrong by taking Dave Chyzowski of the Kamloops Blazers second overall in the 1989 Entry Draft — ahead of Bill Guerin, Olaf Kolzig and Adam Foote — won’t tell me which way he or any member of his staff is leaning.

MacGregor has personally seen Hall a dozen times, including twice in the opening round of the OHL playoffs. He’s seen Seguin eight or nine times, including twice in the first round. He’ll see both in this series.

So will amateur scouts Chris McCarthy, Kent Hawley and Brad Davis, as well as pro scout Morey Gare, GM Steve Tambellini and, I’m guessing, president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe.

"You learn something every time," MacGregor said of seeing Hall and Seguin in the first round. "It was good. The players, for me, responded extremely well.

"The biggest thing is I can kind of go in and out of rinks without anybody knowing, but Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini can’t. The players would know, generally, if those guys are in the rink."

So, did Hall or Seguin make any substantial gains or lose any ground in the first round?

"I won’t say anybody helped themselves more than the other, but neither of them hurt themselves," MacGregor said. "And, in one case, and I’m not going to tell you which case, he showed me something that I hadn’t seen before."

The Oilers won’t know where they pick until the NHL lottery is held April 13, but they’ve got a 48.2 per cent change of getting the first pick as the league’s 30th-place team.

INEXACT SCIENCE

Here and now, Hall and Seguin are about as joined at the hip as Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They were dead-even in OHL regular season scoring, although Hall played six fewer games. They’re dead-even in playoff scoring through one round. Hall has 6-4-10 in four games. Seguin sits at 5-5-10 after five games. No surprise, then, they’re dead-even with every ranking outfit that matters.

Those who think Seguin is the better prospect point out Hall played on a better team with far better teammates and still only marginally outscored Seguin in points per game (Hall was 1.86 and Seguin 1.68).

A look beyond the boxcars shows Seguin was a more productive goal-scorer at even strength, scoring 35 goals even up and just 13 on the power play. Of Hall’s 40 goals, 22 came at even strength, 14 were on the power play and four came shorthanded.

Hall backers point out he’s more explosive, a physical presence, a leader — we’ve heard comparisons to Mark Messier. As an aside, he’s bigger and stronger than Seguin right now — forget what he’s listed at, Hall weighs in at 200 pounds.

All the above goes in the hopper with what MacGregor and his staff will see in this series and the rest of the playoffs as they await the lottery and draft day. Ultimately, though, all that matters little when the puck drops in 2012-13 or so.

"As long as you’ve done your preparation and your work, you are in a situation where you should be comfortable and you’ll be able to make your decision without having emotion into the pick," MacGregor said.

"At that point, once we get to the draft table, we’ll be comfortable where we’re at."

For now, it’s too close to call. As I recall, it was much the same back in 1989, when the Islanders took Chyzowski one pick after the Quebec Nordiques called Mats Sundin’s name.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Bucknuck

    It seems to me that everyone is kind of saying the same thing. They don't want Tambellini to sit no is hands in hope that a kid makes the jump.

    If a kid is remarkable enough to make the squad then he is either the first call up (when the inevitable injury bug comes) or else is on the team and the veteran goes down the depth chart a little bit.

    It's a good situation to be in.

  • VMR

    I think you guys are mostly talking out of your asses. I dont think there's a question of Eberle taking a spot from a depth signing we make in the offseason. If he takes a spot it's to fill a roll as a scorer on the top two lines.

    We're not signing anyone for cheap who will fit into that spot. We'll be getting depth checking forwards/guys who can take a faceoff/4th line energy guy. He's not competing with those guys he's competing with the glut we've had in those top few spots. O'Sullivan/Nilsson/Comrie/Cogliano/Brule/Gagner those are the guys he has to fight for a spot. Who thinks he wont be a better answer than Nilsson and O'Sullivan have been this year?

    Next year we have Penner Horcoff and Hemsky. Horc isnt guaranteed any higher than 3rd line center that leaves 4 spots on the top two lines. I say he gets every chance to take one of those and sometimes you may have to let him fight through a slump or two while he's learning the game. That goes for whoever we take with our first pick as well.

    • Chris.

      Eberle will be competing for one of 23 opening night roster spots. Period. Eberle could earn that spot at the expense of anyone. There is no "top six" in Quinn's world. Based on who the Oilers already have, and who they may try to sign, and who they draft, Eberle may not make the opening night roster simply because he is on a two-way contract. I don't think the Oilers are in a hurry to push Eberle past the 160 game plateau as quickly as they did Gagner or Cogliano… and they shouldn't be.

      • Dont confuse mixed lines for a disregard for the depth chart. There are "top six" players who are counted on for their offense and given the opportunities accordingly. Quinn isnt going to put Eberle in a position to fail by puting him in a checking role.

        And Eberle is 20, He will be 22 and 1 year away from RFA status if he plays the next two seasons (160 games) without injury. The Oilers have ALREADY taken more time to let him develop than Gagner or Cogliano.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          "Quinn isnt going to put Eberle in a position to fail by puting him in a checking role."

          I wouldn't be so sure of that, Cogs spent a good portion of this year in that role.

        • Chris.

          Most of us are in agreement. You and I agree that it was a good thing that the Oilers were patient with Eberle. You and I agree that Eberle should not be "pencilled in". You and I agree that Eberle should be sent down if he can't clearly dislodge a current top six type player.

          Crash and I, and maybe you, disagree with the notion of creating depth by trying to sign cheap UFA's in July, or retaining some current marginal NHL players a little longer; thus putting Eberle's opening night appearance in jeoprady due to politics, and unfair circumstance, with the knowledge that injuries will inevidably occur and Eberle will get his chance anyway, instead of an AHL lifer like Colin MacDonald, Chris Minnard, or Charles Linglet. Fair enough. Yes it is fake depth… Eberle may be better than O'Sullivan, but O'Sullivan is better than Chris Minnard. If Tambellini does nothing again this offseason, and Eberle misses the first ten games to keep a bum like O'Sullivan in the 23 man roster; so be it… As a season ticket holder, I'd rather tolerate O'Sullivan in the pressbox, and anticipate Eberle, than have the team drop more players with NHL experience this fall, only to have a bunch of no-names recieve the callups when the concussion parade begins.

      • Itsbitsman

        Team depth isn't created by stacking your minor team and signing pluggers for the Nhl team. You have it backwards. Depth comes from excess talent on the bigs going down to the minors.

        I think this is the 'fake depth' that Arch was talking about.

        • Chris.

          But so few Oiler roster players can be sent down without clearing waivers… This is what I'm talking about. Why rush young assets over the 160 game barrier? If Gagner and Cogliano had been managed with the kind of patience that Eberle recieved, the Oilers would have more options today.

          Look, I expect Eberle to play 50 NHL games next season. I just doubt he will be on the opening night roster… in the grand scheme of things… does that really matter?