Tyler Seguin was travelling to Toronto to pick up a major piece of hardware when a woman was fairly certain she recognized him.
"On the plane ride in, there was a lady, and she goes: 'Are you Tyler See-guin, the No. 1 pick?' " Seguin said. "And I'm like: 'It's Say-guin,' and then, 'Potentially, maybe.' "
Less than two months remain before Seguin -- voted the winner of the Red Tilson Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League's most outstanding player after an excellent season with the Plymouth Whalers -- will be a household name that won't be mispronounced. About the only question that's left to ponder is whether it will be Edmonton or Boston where fans will live and die with each Seguin shift.
The Oilers have the first pick overall for the 2010 National Hockey League entry draft in Los Angeles June 25-26; they're scheduled to be followed immediately by the Bruins, who pilfered a pair of first-rounders from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Phil Kessel. The latter is a fine sniper who has the ability to score 50 goals in a season.
But the Leafs finished 29th, giving the Bruins a shot at one of Seguin or Windsor Spitfires winger Taylor Hall. Both have the potential to be franchise cornerstones for at least the next decade.
The race between Seguin, who picked up his award at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday, and Hall to the first pick has been fun to watch unfold. Hall earned a spot on Canada's junior team at Christmas, but Seguin was cut; the two tied for the OHL scoring title, with 106 points apiece. Seguin, a smart two-way centre, was atop NHL Central Scouting's final rankings, one spot up on Hall, and edged Hall 224-197 in voting points (done by OHL reporters and broadcasters) for the Tilson. Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri, after a solid season with the London Knights, was third.
What set Seguin apart from Hall in the minds of Central Scouting?
"Not very much," Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire said. "(There was a feeling within the bureau) that teams should build (at forward) from centre, and that may have been the straw that leaned the camel one way. But it was just a straw."
Seguin, who intimated he won't lose sleep if he is not chosen first overall, might not have been in Toronto on Wednesday had his parents, Paul and Jackie, not made a pivotal decision approximately 10 years ago. Living in Whitby, the family moved back to its home town of Brampton so Tyler could play hockey one year above his age level.
OHL commissioner David Branch mentioned, in revealing Seguin as the Tilson winner, that parents of hockey players in Canada have a tendency to be "crazy." What Branch was saying was that moms and dads were passionate enough that they would go to great lengths so their kids could best be exposed to the sport. "I always felt that Tyler, even from his younger days had that desire," Paul Seguin said. "When you challenge him, he rises and gets better. When he got cut by the world junior team, it was his opportunity to grow."
How did Tyler Seguin respond to being cut? He was the OHL's player of the month in December and January.
"It's fun," Seguin said of the hockey ride. "I have to finish high school, I have the prom and all that regular teenage stuff. I'm 18 and I feel like I am not normal sometimes. But in the end I try to stay humble."