December 18 2013 09:03PM
Taylor Hall played his 200th NHL game for the Edmonton Oilers in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center Wednesday. In many ways, the milepost was a microcosm of his tenure since the Oilers made him the first overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft.
Hall, 22, roared up and down the ice like a freight train coming off the rails most shifts, driving the attack on many of them, getting little accomplished on others. Hall pumped seven shots on goal. He busted to the net on a partial breakaway down the left wing, went to the backhand, fumbled the puck and crashed into the corner boards.
Defensively, Hall made a terrible giveaway, throwing a puck to Anze Kopitar, of all people. He missed some assignments. About the only thing that wasn't par for the course in all the above, as hot as Hall's been, is he didn't manage a point as Martin Jones turned aside all 24 shots he faced.
Still raw, often ragged, Hall is a work-in-progress. While he's knocked off some of the edges, he's in many ways still very much the same instinctual player he was as two-time Memorial Cup MVP of the Windsor Spitfires. Hall is more like a finicky Ferrari than a reliable Ford pick-up, which is exactly what you expect from a No. 1 overall pick.
He's far from a finished product.
Class of his Class
By the most basic numbers, Hall reaches the 200-game mark with 77-96-173, good for .87 PPG. He's scored 12-16-28 in 29 games this season (.97) after tearing it up for 16-34-50 in 45 games (1.11) last season. That, on the heels of a 27-26-53 through 61 games in 2011-12 and 22-20-42 in 65 games as a rookie in 2010-11.
When I look at the draft class of 2010, there isn’t a player, be it a forward or a defenseman, I'd rather have than Hall, not one player who stacks up better with draft day not so long ago. Not just by the numbers, but by any measure, at least from where I sit.
Not No. 2 pick Tyler Seguin, who has 154 points in 234 games. Not Carolina's Jeff Skinner, who has 152 points in 211 games. Defensemen? Nope. Cam Fowler of Anaheim is the best blueliner of the class to this point and I wouldn't trade Hall straight up for him, which is saying something as badly as the Oilers need actual NHL defensemen.
Flaws and all – and there are a few – Hall's performance through 200 games on a bottom-feeder like the Oilers is unmatched by his peers. There can't be any real argument about that, as there was for a time among the fan base in the Taylor-Tyler debate leading into the draft in Los Angeles.
Jason Gregor has long made the argument the Oilers are going to have to dip into their talented group of top-six forwards to make the mix right and more important, acquire other players necessary to round out the roster – notably, but not limited to, a proven top pairing defenseman. I agree with him.
If I'm looking at Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov as possible pawns in re-configuring this roster, the two players who don’t go on the table are Hall and RNH. I'm not saying they can't be traded, but unless Craig MacTavish has a Norris Trophy candidate coming back, they don’t enter the conversation, at least if I'm MacT.
Of course, with the Oilers facing an eighth year out of the playoffs, some fans, rightfully sour, and media types might feel differently. One e-mailer to Gregor's show today called Hall a prima donna, suggesting he'd trade him in a heartbeat. Really? For who? That's frustration talking. Crazy talk.
There are a lot of things wrong with the 2013-14 edition of the Oilers. Hall is not one them.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.