When 19-year-old Wyatt Johnston scored his first career goal in his first game on Thursday, Tyler Seguin played a huge part. The veteran took the puck from Ryan Suter and patiently waited until Johnston opened up for an empty-net one-timer and an easy first goal. Johnston was all smiles, but Seguin might have been even more excited for the rookie.
“It’s awesome. I still remember the feeling of my first goal, guys on the ice, how it went in, and things you’re not going to forget,” Seguin said. “So it was more real special for myself being a part of it for him. He’s obviously a great player and to score in your first game, it's incredible”
Seguin is a natural mentor for Johnston. He is from Ontario. Before making his debut with the Boston Bruins, he spent two years playing in the OHL with the Plymouth Whalers, where he put up 173 points in 124 games. And when he did play in his first NHL game, he did it as a teenager.
Now at the age of 30, Seguin can look back on his time and pass along the knowledge that he has learned over 13 seasons. That information can be how to be an effective player at the highest level, how to manage expectations, or even just how to overcome nerves and maintain the confidence that you belong in the league.
“Just little things that have worked for me in the past,” Seguin said of his advice to Johnston. “When I was a rookie, my trick to get over the “oh my god” factor was: I would stare at some of my favorite players in warm-ups. Whether it was Datsyuk, Sid, or Ovi, I would stretch, I would stare at them. Try to get over the hump in warm-ups so when the game started, it was just another game and they were just another player.”
Johnston clearly took some of Seguin’s advice in his nearly perfect debut. Head Coach Pete DeBoer put him on the ice to start the game to get him right into the swing of things and it paid off as he didn’t look nervous and scored a big goal in the third period.
The words calm, cool, and collected have been thrown around a lot within the organization when talking about Johnston. DeBoer mentioned how calm he was heading into his first game and how he was able to manage his emotions throughout the game. That even keel is part of the swagger that Johnston possesses as a player on and off the ice. It is what helped him to the OHL player of the year award, among others, and it has helped him to stick around the NHL roster to this point.
“I see it,” Seguin said of Johnston’s confidence. “I think of how I used to be and I used to have that real confidence as a kid. Coming through the OHL like he has, you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder and a bit of arrogance to you and you need that early on in your career as a younger player. He’s a little more quiet than I was probably around that age.”
Seguin has always been one of the most confident and outgoing players in the Stars dressing room and that has certainly rubbed off on the rookie. Maintaining that confidence throughout the season and his career will be vital to Johnston’s development as he puts all of the pressures of his first game and first goal behind him and focuses on becoming a consistent NHL player.
Perhaps scoring his first goal one game earlier than Seguin did back in 2010 can push that confidence even higher.
“I scored in my second game, not my first. So he one-upped me,” Seguin laughed. “Now it’s just about learning the NHL game, the grind of it. 82 games of this pace, figuring out your body and figuring out your mind. How high you get after a goal or how low you get after a bad game because you are going through the ups and downs of the season. Learning to deal with that and keeping an even keel, especially as a kid.”
Tyler Seguin is facing his own adversity this season. The once-40-goal scorer is working to get back to his elite status after struggling with major injuries for a few years. Having Johnston under his wing could be an energy boost for Seguin and vice versa as both players look to play a huge role in the offense of the Dallas Stars.
Johnston will make his home debut Saturday against the Nashville Predators. It will be game two of his nine-game tryout, after which Dallas will need to decide whether to keep him or send him back to the OHL. So far, he has certainly made his case to stay.