Taylor vs. Tyler: The great draft debate

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

WINDSOR -- It's a race between two thoroughbreds.

The stage is an Ontario Hockey League Western Conference semifinal.

It's neck and neck in the homestretch of a race that's lasted all season, with the ultimate prize the No. 1 selection in June's National Hockey League draft.

Windsor Spitfires' Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers have been 1 and 1A on most scouts' race form.

The hockey world is now getting a chance to comparison shop as the two play each other at least four times in these playoffs.

Round 1 went to Hall on Thursday in Windsor, as the Spitfires won 5-1. Seguin didn't play particularly well, but then neither did his Whalers.

Hall scored a pair of goals in the third period. Windsor coach Bob Boughner admitted it was a "very ordinary performance" for most of the game.

As much as the Whalers and Spitfires want to focus on winning the series, the Taylor vs. Tyler saga is overshadowing what promises to be a pretty good series.

Boughner said he had requests for about 50 NHL scouts and management to attend the game.

Granted only a few them of will get a shot at either one. Some are there to watch Cam Fowler, the Spitfire blue-liner who may go No. 3 in the draft.

Teams such as Boston Bruins, who are in the hunt for the No. 1 pick thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, reportedly had four of their staff at the game, including local scout, regional scout and general manager.

The Edmonton Oilers were also well represented.

Scouts are willing to talk, but none of them want to be identified. When it comes to the question of whether Hall or Seguin will wind up being selected first, the consensus seems to be there is no consensus.

Hall and Seguin are different style players, offering pros and cons to teams that have a chance to select them. Trying to determine who has the higher skill set will be splitting hairs.

Of five scouts asked, none believed the teams with a shot at either player has yet made a decision on which one they would take.

"You have to believe that if one player clearly outplays the other, it would weigh in that player's favour," said one scout whose team is not in the sweepstakes for either player.

There's a lot more work to be done after this series is over, another scout said.

"There are interviews, workouts. What happens if they come to the NHL testing and a team just doesn't like the body type of one of the players?" he said.

One of the biggest decisions is whether you draft for need or position.

"It's almost impossible to find a first-line centre (Seguin)," another scout said. "Then again, you don't find dominant left-wingers, either (Hall.) Forget the old hockey adage that you pick the best player. This is about need."

When it's all said and done, another scout said, it's difficult to pass on a player who can change a game.

"Seguin is a complete player, but Hall can change a game immediately," he said. "He doesn't mind going into corners or skating to the net and he's on the second penalty killing unit so he knows how to play in his own end."

Spitfires captain Harry Young has played with Hall and against Seguin.

"I would love Taylor to be No. 1 because I think he's the best player," Young said. "But Seguin is tough. He responds in the big games and whoever said he's just a perimeter player . . . he doesn't mind going in the corners."

Hall has a knack for turning it up. In Game 1 on Thursday, he hadn't done much until the third period. With his team on the power play, he made three great passes and then scored by making a smart shot when he knew Whalers goalie Matt Hackett was screened. Later in the game, he scored on a one-time blast, also on the power play.

"I know you guys are going to ask me about Taylor-Tyler thing but to tell you the truth, I didn't even think about it out there," Hall said.

Hall and Seguin have been at this since the beginning of the season. Both are articulate, poised individuals who are under an increasing media glare. They've answered the same questions over and over.

The biggest challenge the pair has may be keeping focused through the frenzied analysis.

"Of course you think about it, but I know that if my team continues to win, it's better for me," Hall said. "I could let all this get to me and listen to what everyone says but quite honestly, I'm a big competitor and I want to win. It would mean nothing more to me than to beat this team and beat him and go on and win another Memorial Cup. I would like that way more than being No. 1 or No. 2."

With Hall's substantial pedigree, some scouts believe Seguin has to be better this series.

"It's funny how it's all played out coming down head-to-head," Seguin said. "If I think about it too much, it will take me off my game. I know there are scouts in the crowd but it's been that way all year."

Morris Dalla Costa is a Free Press sports columnist.

E-mail morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos