This is a different Kessel, a look-you-in-the-eye-and-speak-from-the-heart guy who is ready to work at hockey instead of merely play it. He would still prefer to be at center instead of wing—the Bruins want him to use his speed to drive wide—but he knows life can place more onerous demands. He has made unpublicized visits to children with cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital because he understands that doing the right thing is not just backchecking or winning puck battles or taking hits to make plays. A Bruins official said Kessel used the words "my cancer" for the first time during an interview last week, rather than relying on the trusted euphemisms of "my situation" or "my ordeal."
"I'm an old 21," Kessel says. "I'll tell you that much."