Seguin/By S. Bradley

WILMINGTON, Mass. — Every time No. 2 overall draft pick Tyler Seguin sits out a game, many in the Bruins’ fan base react as though head coach Claude Julien is holding back a modern-day Phil Esposito from taking the league by storm.

Those that have watched the rookie’s play more closely, however, know that there have been long stretches of games where he has looked less than engaged and seems unsure of taking contact in the course of a game. Earlier this season, Seguin even admitted that working hard in the corners and grinding out scoring chances in front of the net are not things he’s used to doing from his time in junior hockey.

Seguin has been a healthy scratch in three of the Bruins’ last five games in favor of Daniel Paille getting back in the lineup. And one of those games Seguin played the Bruins were down to just 12 available forwards because of Patrice Bergeron’s personal absence.

Here unfiltered are Julien’s comments today when asked by where Seguin fits in on this team right now:

“He’s part of our hockey. I think right now, and [general manager] Peter [Chiarelli’s] explained that before, just because he’s a first-round pick, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to go through the growing process of a young player. There’s times where we made some trades, and [we’ve] brought in some experienced guys right now.

“To me, he’s definitely a player that belongs more on a top-three line than he does on the fourth. And there’s some times you’ve seen him on the fourth line because I think he needs to play to at least not go stale. And so does the other guy that’s sitting out at times, which is Paille.

“We’re heading towards the playoffs, you certainly want some experienced guys to be there. But at the same time, I think we’ve been a pretty healthy club so far that hasn’t allowed for certain players to go into the lineup consistently. I guess I would chalk that up to circumstances, I would chalk that up more to growing into a good pro. You’ve seen him come out certain games and really play well. And then after a while it tapers off a little bit. So it’s just part of growing into a good pro.

“I keep saying it over and over again, and I’ve told him so many times, I know he’s going to be a great player in this league. I think the report on him at the beginning of the draft was that he was going to be a great player. But I don’t think he had the same opportunity as the guy that was drafted before him [Edmonton’s Taylor Hall] to play Memorial Cups and World Championships, so he maybe lacks that experience right now. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll catch up in regards to the type of player that everybody expects him to be and will be that in the future.”

So while it probably won’t please the masses enough, you can expect to see Seguin in the lineup, but only  occasionally to prevent him from going “stale.” As far as playing a major role in the Bruins’ offense, Seguin ranks behind Boston’s other top-nine forwards in the coaching staff’s view at this stage of his development based mostly on experience and consistency than even skill.

Although it’s hard to argue with the reasons for Seguin’s limited role with the Bruins, it’s quite debatable if the Bruins made the right decision in keeping Seguin around rather than utilizing their ability to send him back to his junior team. I wrote as far back as July that they were going to have to retain his services this season both because of the predicted impact he could have on the offense, and also because the marketing arm of this club had found its young exciting face to use in promoting the team just a couple months after the worst collapse in playoff history. They proved that with t-shirt sales and ad campaigns that featured the kid before he’d even pulled on an official NHL sweater.

There’s no doubt the hockey people also saw a chance to add a youngster with the type of NHL skill set the team previously lacked, and even better work him in slowly in a complementary role on the second or third line. However, for reasons the people paid to predict these things failed to foresee, Seguin regressed from the fast start of rookie camp and the rookie games to the point where he couldn’t be trusted to play on a top-three line, let alone get power-play time.

It’s impossible to know right now if a year racking up minutes and points in the OHL this season would’ve been better than a year in a bit role on the NHL roster. Players that have gone on to greatness or obscurity have been handled both ways throughout the years, whether it’s Joe Thornton’s part-time start to his career or Steve Stamkos’ second-half logging of major minutes playing out the string with a bad Tampa Bay squad.

The answers to questions about the Bruins’ handling of Seguin won’t be revealed for years to come. The answer to any queries about his present however are easy: the Bruins still have high hopes for his future but don’t see him as much of a help for the present.