With the Windsor Spitfires preparing for the Memorial Cup and the Plymouth Whalers sitting at home, extra time in the spotlight gives Taylor Hall a distinct advantage over Tyler Seguin, right?
Not necessarily, according to Edmonton Oilers chief Scout Stu MacGregor, who will be at the epicentre of a Taylor-or-Tyler debate that will rage until he steps up to the microphone at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and calls one of their names.
Yes, Hall and the Spits will command center stage when the Memorial Cup unfolds at the Keystone Centre in Brandon. And, yes, the big winger has an opportunity to make up ground on Seguin, the top-ranked draft-eligible player on the planet, according to NHL Central Scouting.
But shining in the spotlight isn’t always the way things always shake down for blue-chippers like Hall, ranked No. 2. And even if Hall delivers, it might not be enough to sway the Oilers. I believe they consider Seguin, a right-shooting centre, the player who best fits their needs.
DON’T BLOW IT
"The thing you have to be very careful of is that you don’t just start picking them apart and beating them up," MacGregor said.
"Sometimes, it’s an advantage for a player to continue to play, but it can be a disadvantage. The disadvantage is they could blow it. You get that final evaluation and you say, ‘Holy man, I never saw that before.’
"Is that a normal habit? Is that a normal happening? Then you watch it again and it’s ‘Oh man, I’ve been missing this all along.’ There is that other side of it.
"In scouting, you work from a positive side of things, but if you fall off that positive side, it really slides quickly to the negative at times. You have to be careful to make sure you know what you’ve seen and you’re sure what you’ve seen. You keep that in mind with your feeling about that player, where you stand with that player."
Hall certainly hasn’t done anything to hurt himself through the OHL playoffs. In fact, he raised his stock in the minds of many against the Barrie Colts.
Even if he fails to deliver a rousing encore in the Memorial Cup, Hall won’t be falling out of the top-two. No chance. No way. Thank-you Captain Obvious. Hall’s the real deal. But is he the player the Oilers want? Good luck getting the answer to that out of MacGregor for public consumption.
"I think Taylor has continued to show he’s a player who gives a high level of performance," MacGregor said.
"I don’t think he’s pushed himself any further forward, but he certainly hasn’t allowed himself to slide back. He’s shown that he’s a consistent performer at a high level. He hasn’t hurt himself, in my mind."
MacGregor, WHL scout Bob Brown and GM Steve Tambellini will be in Brandon.
A COMBINED EFFORT
Once the Memorial Cup is done, the next step toward draft day is the NHL Combine, where 100 invitees will do fitness testing and submit themselves to poking and prodding in interviews with teams.
The Oilers will interview 80 or so players, and they’ll approach the process differently than they used to, when the Oilers contingent would include the entire scouting staff, or eight or 10 people.
Instead of running prospects through a gauntlet of scouts, often throwing them like raw meat to Dave Semenko for a rubber-hose job to test the mettle of the youngsters as they used to, it’ll be MacGregor, OHL scouts Kent Hawley and Brad Davis and Tambellini doing the interviews.
"We don’t go with a huge group because it becomes overwhelming," said MacGregor. "The players can become extremely intimidated by walking into a group of eight or 10 guys.
"You only get 20 minutes with these guys, so you’re doing 20 guys a day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m."
TORY A CANDIDATE?
Radio analyst and Oilers Lunch host Bob Stauffer brought up Tri-City Americans GM Bob Tory as a candidate to oversee the Oilers new AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City in the last couple of days, and he might be on to something.
Tory, who used to run the show with the Kootenay Ice before setting up shop in Washington as GM and part-owner, has a long track record of team-building and success.
His impressive resume aside, Tory certainly has an ally in the 53-year-old MacGregor. The two have been friends since elementary school and they played peewee hockey together in Edmonton.
"He’s a very, very good hockey guy," MacGregor said. "He’s a smart guy. Bob has done a great job getting that organization headed in the right direction. Bob’s a very good evaluator. He knows what he’s doing. You are always interested in good people."
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.