Taylor Hall or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cannonball.
Those of you who have followed my blog will know by now that I am a massive Taylor Hall fan. He’s just awesome, he really is. Somehow, he has long been the subject of fan ire – “massive bust” or “should have taken Tyler Seguin” – but this is the season that he is finally forcing people to really take notice. The funny thing is, he’s been pretty brilliant all along, and that genuinely isn’t my Edmonton Rose Tinted Glasses™ talking.
Let’s take a look at the career of Taylor Hall, a.k.a. The Kingston Cannonball.
- Regarded as a terrific skater – one of the fastest, most agile in the game – with explosive acceleration and ability to “turn on a dime”. And apparently he’s never had a days power-skating training in his life.
- Possesses an above average wrist shot – heavy and accurate.
- Passing skills have developed exponentially since entering NHL, from merely “good” to “outstanding”.
- Defensive play was lacking, but has developed to the point where he’s not often a liability – often the case for young players, and he should continue to develop in that area.
- Drives the play in the right direction constantly. As many say about him, when he’s on the ice, the surface “tilts” in the Oilers’ favour – he’s that dominant. Puck-possession demon, keeping the play alive and creating scoring opportunities all the time.
- High quality player both on the powerplay and at even strength.
- Has an intense will to win, a drive for success that not many players can claim.
- Fearless on the ice, willing to battle for pucks and in the corners, as well as in front of the net. Bull-in-a-china-shop style has led to many worrying over injuries, but for the most part his injuries have been of the “freak” kind and unrelated to his playing style.
- Elevates his game even more when his team needs it the most.
EARLY LIFE AND HOCKEY BEGINNINGS – 1991 to 2007
- Born on November 14th 1991 in Calgary, Alberta.
- Father, Steve Hall, was a former CFL player in the 1980s, and then a member of the Canadian national bobsleigh team.
- His mother, Kim, introduced him to organised hockey at age 5, practicing day in and day out on a backyard rink built by his father.
- Won a Bantam AAA Calgary championship with the North East Canucks in 2004/05.
- Moved to Kingston, Ontario in 2005 at age 14.
- Joined the Greater Kingston Predators of the ODMHA.
- Named to ODMHA Midget AAA All-Star Team in 2007 after scoring 44 goals and 85 points in just 29 games at the age of 16.
- Selected 2nd Overall (behind Ryan O’Reilly) in 2007 OHL Priority Selection by the Windsor Spitfires.
JUNIOR SUPERSTAR – 2007 to 2010
- Made an immediate impact on the Spitfires, leading the team with 45 goals in his rookie season and finishing with 84 points for 3rd on the team.
- Twice named OHL player of the week in March 2008.
- Scored 2 goals and 5 points in 5 playoff games.
- Named OHL and CHL Rookie of the Year by season’s end.
- Represented Canada at the 2008 World U-17s, scoring 4 goals and 8 points in 5 games.
- Represented Canada at the 2008 World U-18s, scoring 4 goals and 9 points in 7 games.
- Represented the OHL in the Canada-Russia Challenge in 2008.
- Began garnering national attention, with Don Cherry praising him and Sports Illustrated including him in a feature of young athletes with potential to be stars.
- Scored 38 goals and 90 points in 63 games in 2008/09.
- Took off in the playoffs, scoring 16 goals and 36 points in just 20 games, including the game winning OT goal in the deciding game of the Finals with the team winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
- Awarded the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as Playoff MVP.
- Windsor moved on to the Memorial Cup, with Hall recording 8 points in 6 games as the Spitfires won the tournament.
- Awarded the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as Tournament MVP.
- Named to the Tournament All-Star Team.
- Selected 89th Overall in the KHL Draft in 2009 by Ak Bars Kazan.
- In 2009/10, was deemed the early favourite to be selected 1st Overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by most major scouting services.
- Tied Tyler Seguin for the OHL lead in points with 106, scoring 40 goals along the way; shared the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy with his rival for the upcoming draft.
- Won a playoff series against Seguin’s Plymouth Whalers in what many saw as a showdown between top prospects.
- Windsor won the J. Ross Robertson Cup for the 2nd year running.
- For the second year running, Hall led the playoffs in point scoring with 17 goals and 35 points in 19 games (team-mate Adam Henrique scored 20 goals to lead that category).
- For the second year running, the Windsor Spitfires won the Memorial Cup Tournament.
- For the first time in Memorial Cup history, Taylor Hall won his second straight Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as tournament MVP.
- He won the Ed Chynoweth Trophy for leading the tournament in scoring with 9 points.
- Named to the Tournament All-Star Team.
NHL DRAFT – 2010
- The race for 1st Overall in the 2010 NHL Draft was considered to neck and neck between Hall and Tyler Seguin.
- Arguments for Hall were his fearless nature, ferocious competitiveness, scoring talents, speed and desire to win at all costs.
- Arguments for Seguin were the fact he was a centre, his higher potential ceiling, his slick skills, and his laid-back demeanor (not at the expense of desire to win, however).
- Hall won the day, with the Edmonton Oilers being won over by both his dominating performances in high-pressure situations, and his supreme skills in so many aspects of the game.
NHL ROOKIE – 2010 to 2011
- Signed with the Oilers shortly after the draft for the rookie maximum contract.
- Given permission to wear No.4 jersey by team president and former Oiler legend Kevin Lowe.
- Made his NHL debut on October 7th 2010 against the Calgary Flames.
- Scored his first point, an assist on a Shawn Horcoff goal, in his second game on October 10th against the Florida Panthers.
- Wouldn’t score his first NHL goal until October 28th 2010, against Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
- Selected to represent the Oilers in the NHL All-Star Game as a Young Star.
- Finished second to Michael Grabner of the NY Islanders in the Fastest Skater Competition.
- Recorded his first NHL hat-trick against the Atlanta Thrashers on February 19th 2011, after the Oilers went down by 2 goals. This was the first signs at the NHL level of Hall’s ability to take over games completely, and he was still just 19.
- Recorded his first “Gordie Howe Hat-trick” against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 3rd 2011. He scored on Steve Mason, assisted a Jordan Eberle goal, and fought Derek Dorsett in a 4-2 win.
- That fight, however, forced Hall out of the rest of the season as he fell awkwardly on his ankle.
- Finished his rookie season with 22 goals and 42 points in 65 games.
- That projects to around a 27 goal, 53 point campaign over a full 82 game schedule. That means he was on pace for roughly the same totals as previous 1st overall picks John Tavares and Steven Stamkos.
- Possession metrics also indicated that Hall made the Oilers a far better team when he was on the ice than when he wasn’t, with a far higher volume of shots and chances being created with him around. He was already showing the potential to be a very special player.
NHL SOPHOMORE – 2011 to 2012
- Fully recovered from his ankle sprain, Hall burst out of the gates with 9 points in his first 10 games of the 2011/12 season.
- After going 9 games without a goal, he scored his second NHL hat-trick on November 19th 2011 in a 9-2 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Unfortunately, the injuries that many feared would come Hall’s way with the style he plays did materialise, and he missed 7 games in November/December with a lingering shoulder injury from his junior days.
- On January 17th, a freak accident occurred in the warm-up before a game against Columbus, when Hall fell into team-mate Ladislav Smid before Corey Potter was forced to attempt to jump over them. Potter’s skate sliced Hall’s forehead open, requiring 30 stitches to close and keeping him out of the line-up for 2 games with swelling.
- When in the lineup, continued to score at a high pace, but unfortunately he sustained a concussion in mid-March that prematurely ended his season for the second year running. The Oilers took the opportunity to have Hall’s shoulder repaired.
- Hall finished his second NHL season with 27 goals and 53 points in just 61 games.
- That would have him on pace for 36 goals and 71 points over a full season, better than John Tavares and Patrick Kane in their sophomore years in the league.
- His possession metrics began to border on elite after this season, with Hall not being sheltered as much as fellow team-mates Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, but absolutely destroying fairly tough competition in shot differential.
- After the season, signed his second NHL contract, to kick in after the 2012/13 season, for 7 years at $42m.
NHL STAR – 2013
- Due to NHL Lockout, spent 26 games with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, scoring 14 goals and 34 points as part of one of the most dominant groups in recent AHL history, with fellow locked-out NHLers Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, along with rookie-phenom Justin Schultz.
- When lockout ended in January 2013, named an Alternate Captain for the Edmonton Oilers, rotating every other game with Nick Schultz.
- On January 26th 2013, Hall recorded his 100th career NHL point against the Calgary Flames.
- On March 30th 2013, he set a new franchise record for the Oilers, scoring a hat-trick just 7:53 into a game against the Vancouver Canucks, beating Wayne Gretzky’s previous record.
- Less than a week later, tallied 5 points (1g, 4a) against the Calgary Flames in an 8-2 win and truly bringing him to the forefront of the new line-up of NHL stars.
- Currently stands at 13 goals and 41 points in just 36 games, which would equate to just under 30 goals and 93 points in a full 82 game season.
- He is taking on the toughest competition that could be thrown his way, and dominating it by an extremely significant margin – his CorsiRel (all shots taken by the team whilst he’s on the ice – on net, blocked and missed – minus all shots taken by the opposing team whilst he’s on the ice, relative to when he’s not on the ice; this is the best indicator we have so far of puck possession and driving play) is 8th in the entire NHL so far this year (minimum 30 games played) at 21.8, ahead of star players such as Sidney Crosby and Anze Kopitar.
- That is not to say in the slightest that he’s better than those two overall, but he is more than deserving of now being mentioned in the same breath as some of the top stars in the NHL. Taylor Hall is now one of them.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME…
Taylor Hall is still only 21 years old, and is already dominating almost every game he plays in – and that’s no exaggeration or fanboy extremism, he really is. Whilst his rise to prominence has been a little slower than say Steven Stamkos – who had an OK rookie year but has been dynamite ever since – it has been on par with how fellow former-No.1 overall pick John Tavares has performed, and he’s widely seen as an NHL star.
We are witnessing the fruition of one the top talents in the NHL, and in my opinion he is almost guaranteed to be a top 10 NHL forward over the next decade.
And to think even some Oiler fans were ready to write him off as a bust…
Thanks to hockeydb.com, hockeysfuture.com, Cult of Hockey @ Edmonton Journal, Red Line Report and Wikipedia for information utilised.