Commentary

These two are the real deal

Unlike in past years, the top 2010 NHL draft picks should have an immediate impact

Updated: June 24, 2010, 9:49 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

LOS ANGELES -- Cam Neely, the newly appointed team president of the Boston Bruins, was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round (ninth overall) in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft.

He played only three seasons in Vancouver before he was traded in 1986 to Boston, where No. 8 became a legend with the Bruins. His Hall of Fame career is well documented, and he's celebrated for his relentless style and tenacity.

[+] EnlargeCam Neely
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesBruins great Cam Neely was drafted in the first round in 1983, but not until ninth.

If Neely was the ninth pick in 1983, the players selected before him must have been on-ice studs, right?

Not necessarily.

Brian Lawton was the first American-born player drafted first when the Minnesota North Stars took a chance on a high school kid out of Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I.

Sylvain Turgeon was picked second that year by the Hartford Whalers before Pat LaFontaine was selected third by the New York Islanders. The No. 4 overall pick that year by the Detroit Red Wings was Steve Yzerman, who turned out to be the best of the bunch.

The other four players picked ahead of Neely were: Tom Barrasso (No. 5), John MacLean (No. 6), Russ Courtnall (No. 7) and Andrew McBain (No. 8).

Sure, there's parity in the draft, but unlike 27 years ago, the top two prospects in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft are so similar in abilities, it's going to be a tough decision for the Edmonton Oilers. Whether the Oilers choose Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin with their No. 1 pick, the Bruins will end up with a pretty good player with the No. 2 pick, too.

"Both are older than their years, as you would expect with all the media they've had to deal with and the path their lives have taken them," Neely said. "I think they're going to be great players. They are both very determined. No matter what happens, I think they both want to show each other they want to be No. 1. They are both very committed and determined."

The first round of this year's draft takes place Friday night at the Staples Center and by now everyone in the hockey world has heard of Hall and Seguin. Since the draft lottery in April, both the Oilers and the Bruins have touted both prospects.

[+] EnlargeBrian Lawton
Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images In the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, Brian Lawton of Rhode Island was the first American-born player drafted No. 1 -- by the Minnesota North Stars.

Before one pulls an Oilers sweater over his head and the other dons the Black and Gold, scouts around the league agree that both will have an impact at the NHL level next season.

"Both these kids are going to be good players in the NHL," said one NHL scout. "Hall is a touch better only because he played in the World Juniors and helped Windsor win two Memorial Cups in a row." "My guess is Edmonton is going to take Hall," said another NHL scout. "They're not going to fool around. They need to rebuild their franchise and they need to take the best player available. But you never know how they're going to turn out because they're only 18 years old. It's a tough business and you need a little luck along the way. I don't know who Edmonton is going to take, but if I were a betting man, I would say they take Hall no matter what is offered to them."

While the scout's statement "you never know how they're going to turn out" is obviously true, the clear majority of the hockey world believes both Hall and Seguin are blue-chippers and can't-miss players.

The Orr Hockey Group has been advising Hall and his family since before his first season in the OHL. It's no coincidence that he wears the No. 4 in honor of Bobby Orr. "Taylor will impress from the first day of training camp and will do very well at the NHL level," said Darren Orr, Hall's agent and the son of Bobby Orr. "He has excelled every season, was successful in big games, won the MVP two years in a row and plays tough on top of everything."

Hall even said the night of the lottery that it would be a "dream come true" to play in Boston. He'll eventually get to play in Boston, but it might be in an Oilers sweater.

"Taylor will be pleased no matter where he ends up," Orr said. "We all pretty much know it will be one of two places. He is just excited to have an opportunity to play at the highest level."

The last time the Bruins were in a similar situation they selected Joe Thornton with the No. 1 overall pick in 1997. And while he was a solid player, one of the best in the world, he was never able to carry the Bruins on his shoulders and lead them to a Stanley Cup during his almost eight full seasons in Boston before he was traded to the San Jose Sharks.

No matter if it's Hall or Seguin who ends up in Boston, there will be pressure to perform and to bring home a Stanley Cup. In 1983, the Red Wings wanted all three of the top picks in that draft, but had to "settle" for Yzerman, and of those top four from that class, Yzerman (with no slight to LaFontaine) was clearly the best. Yzerman was 18 his rookie season and brought life back to an otherwise dead franchise at the time.

The Bruins are not struggling. In fact, with their solid foundation and strong prospects, they could be on the verge of something special, and no matter if they end up with Hall or Seguin, it could mean a major swing in the near future for the organization.

There's no real chess move here for either the Bruins or the Oilers. The organization with the top pick has to select the best overall prospect, and on the eve of the draft it appears Hall is that player. "I know who we want and we're going to get one of the two," said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. "I'll be happy with either."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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