With what we’ve already seen from Taylor Hall just 26 games into his NHL career, can you imagine him not being a member of the Edmonton Oilers this season? Can you imagine him spending another season with the Windsor Spitfires? I can’t. Neither can Ryan Whitney.
"I’d like to talk to the people who were thinking that. That’s a good one," laughed Whitney after Hall scored 23 seconds into overtime to beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 Saturday.
"I told him after he’s becoming a pretty effective player, a star almost, in the making. For all those people who were on him in the beginning, it just takes a while. In Game 82 he’s going to be even better than he is right now."
What Hall, just weeks past his 19th birthday, is "right now" is coach Tom Renney’s most explosive forward. A game-breaker. A difference-maker. A player who puts fans on the edge of their seats, then yanks them to their feet by doing something special.
"He’s a special kind of player," added Ryan Jones, who scored the 1-0 goal against the Blues on a goalmouth feed from Magnus Paajarvi. "He does things that I don’t even dream of."
Truth is, Hall’s doing a lot of things even the most optimistic fan of the Oilers wouldn’t have predicted this early in his career. Saturday marked Hall’s first overtime winner — he took as feed from Whitney after Andy McDonald got wiped out in the neutral zone, raced in alone on Jaroslav Halak and sifted a snapshot past him. He has two game-winners.
The kid is getting better shift-by-shift, period-by-period and game-by-game. Talk about a sight for the sore eyes of long-suffering Oilers fans. It’s really something to see.
"I saw him (McDonald) fall and I said, ‘I better get on my horse,’ "said Hall, who has nine goals. "Once the puck was on my stick, I realized there wasn’t anybody close to me."
Said Renney: "There’s all kinds of people on this team you’d love to see have a breakaway in overtime. I have to tell you, he leads the parade, quite honestly."
After a sometimes tentative start to the season, Hall is rolling now with five goals and six points in his last six games against NHL competition. Does he look the least bit overmatched to you? Does he look out of place? Would it be better for Hall and the Oilers for him to be ripping it up with Windsor now? No, no and no.
Contractually speaking, I don’t know what’s going to happen with Hall six years from now and neither does anybody else. Fans, with what they’ve seen, are more concerned about the next six shifts, the next six periods, the next six games.
It’s becoming obvious that soon, very soon, this is going to be Taylor Hall’s team to lead. On nights like Saturday, with a crush of reporters leaning in to talk to him, it feels like it already is. Fans are rejoicing that Hall is here now. As they should.
THIS AND THAT…
— Everybody remembers how the Oilers went in the tank after that five-game winning streak they put together last December as they went on to lose 20 of their next 21 games. One of the worst stretches of hockey I’ve seen by this team since the mid-1990s.
So, what’s your over-and-under for wins in the next 20 games, counting Saturday as the first one? The schedule, which includes 11 more home games in that stretch, looks relatively favourable. I’m saying 10 wins.
— How many people picked Jones to be among the Oilers top-nine forwards in scoring for the Lucky 13 Pool? Jones goal against the Blues was his six of the season. Might he get 20?
— Whitney laughed out loud last night when I told him my over-and-under for him on assists before he scores his first goal is 22. Does he pick up a helper against Anaheim Tuesday and then score a goal?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.