Most of us probably assumed that 2015 was the Summer of Connor McDavid. The most hotly hyped hockey talent in 10 years went No. 1 in the NHL Draft, as everyone predicted, and triggered a rapturous moment of selection for the lucky lottery winners at the Edmonton Oilers, as previously ordained.
But what if The Next One — the heir to Sidney Crosby, who was the heir to Wayne Gretzky — is already a fixture in the league? What if he's maturing into the role rather than springing full-grown from the hockey gods' heads?
Chris Peters of CBS Sports has gone over the annual question of whether Crosby is really still the best player in the NHL (his conclusion: yes). But here's where it gets interesting: He also took a good look at who might inherit that distinction as the 28-year-old Crosby's inevitable wave from the summit approaches. And in considering all the up-and-comers under age 25, he ended up focusing on another very familiar name.
[Tyler Seguin] is the type of player who could really take off in the next couple of years, and since the trade to Dallas he has already started. He doesn't turn 24 until January so he still might be entering his peak years and he is already one of the most productive players in the NHL. He's also playing on a team that should be on the rise in the Western Conference and should be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league. Seguin has a scoring title (perhaps more than one) in his future. Maybe even as soon as this season.
The fact that Peters didn't default to the by-now expected answer is a little surprising all by itself. Perhaps more surprising is that he puts Seguin ahead of the other established names he considered — John Tavares, Steven Stamkos and Carey Price. McDavid himself is almost a footnote in this list, the "bonus" selection at No. 5.
Peters shared his conclusion on the same day that Tom Collins of Dobber Hockey posted his list of the 10 NHL players most likely to break the 50-goal mark for the first time in 2015-16. Seguin comes in at No. 2 — just behind his cosmic twin, Phil Kessel, and four places ahead of BFF Jamie Benn.
There are only two teams in the league that have at least two players who can score 50 goals: Pittsburgh and Dallas. Reasons Seguin can score 50 goals: he's scored 37 in each of the last two years (and was on pace for 43 last season). He's playing with Benn and possibly Patrick Sharp, both threats to get 70 points, and someone on that line should get 50 goals. He's only 23 years old and may still have his best seasons to come. He's looked way more comfortable in Dallas than he did in Boston. He takes a ton of shots. He's an elite player. His shooting percentage gets better each year. And the second line is strong enough that teams can't just focus on Seguin.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these assessments is the way they give other pundits permission to take Seguin seriously. The thinly veiled assumptions of the past — that Seguin's hockey smarts and athletic gifts were somehow canceled out by unspecified "weaknesses" in his character — are nowhere to be found. There's not a whisper of a suggestion that this Seguin, Dallas' Seguin, is too lazy a player or too heedless a human being to become the best there is.
That's progress. And it points to another, even more interesting idea: that perhaps The Next One can be made as much as born.