TAYLOR HALL: EXCEEDING GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Is it safe to say rookie Taylor Hall has exceeded the expectations of success-starved fans through his first 42 games with the Edmonton Oilers? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course he has.

That’s no small feat for Hall, who stepped directly into the spotlight and under the microscope as the No. 1 pick at the 2010 Entry Draft as the Oilers first-ever, first overall draft pick on the heels of back-to-back years as the Memorial Cup MVP with the Windsor Spitfires.

Going into tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center, Hall sits third in NHL rookie scoring with 14-12-26 in 42 games and is looking like a lead-pipe cinch to be a finalist for the Calder Trophy when we get down to voting for top rookie honours for 2010-11.

In terms of point production, Hall sits behind only Jeff Skinner of Carolina (15-19-34) and Logan Couture of San Jose (19-9-28) and has just turned the corner on a season in which he could finish with 50 points as a 19-year-old playing on a lottery team.

How good is that? Again, a rhetorical question.

GRABBING THE SPOTLIGHT

Even allowing for a quantum leap in the level of competition and a flimsy supporting cast with the Oilers, we really shouldn’t be surprised by Hall’s unmitigated success to this point in the season.

Hall’s made a habit of excelling in the spotlight, as those two MVP awards with Windsor indicate. He left Tyler Seguin in the dust in the mind of Oilers chief scout Stu MacGregor during the playoffs last season with yet another dominant post-season. He’s made the jump to the NHL with similar aplomb. Hall has delivered with all eyes on him.

Near as I can tell, Hall’s always been confident in his ability to do exactly that. Not in look-at-me spurts of bravado and braggadocio, but in a quiet, almost matter-of-fact manner. Back during pre-season when I was writing a feature for NHL.com, Hall said this:

"I’ve always wanted to be a player that, with my play on the ice, I put myself in the spotlight," Hall said. "I put myself in a position to have a lot of pressure.

"I’ve always been able to adapt to that. Obviously, this is a whole different animal. It’s the NHL. It’s a Canadian city and it’s a little bit of a fishbowl, but I think it’s a good balance of a fishbowl and pressure. I can also go out and have fun."

SOMETHING SPECIAL

Hall has handled the balancing act he spoke of as well as could be expected. Even at the start of the season, with a rabid fan base watching his every move and points not coming as quickly as he’d like, Hall never wavered in the confidence he belonged — in front of the cameras and the notepads or just sitting around shooting the breeze.

Hall is tackling being moved from left wing to centre the same way. I fully expect he’ll have shown enough by the time Shawn Horcoff returns from a sprained knee next week that coach Tom Renney will be compelled to keep him in the middle.

Based on his two first cracks at pivot and what we saw against the San Jose Sharks, might Renney take a longer look to see if the Oilers already have the dominant centre they’ve lacked for so many seasons? Again, rhetorical. More, please.

All that aside, there’s a lot to like about Hall aside from what fans see on the ice — his desire to excel, how he approaches each and every game, how he deals with the demands that come with the glaring spotlight in a hockey town, the genuine rink-rat in him.

So much more, it’s obvious, is yet to come.

THIS AND THAT…

— Hall is on pace to better the points projections of all but one of six writers who submitted their picks for the Lucky 13 Pool here at Oilersnation.

Team Baggedmilk whipped out the Ouija Board and picked Hall for 53 points, which looks just about bang-on. Team Wanye, now based in the Smithrite container behind Barry Fraser’s condo in Cabo San Lucas, had Hall with 45 points. Team Gregor had him at 44 points. I had Hall at 43 points, as did Willis. Lowetide pegged the kid for 40 points.

— When Horcoff and Jordan Eberle return from injuries, I’d keep put them together with left winger Magnus Paajarvi as the second line and keep Hall with Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky on the top line until they give me a good reason to break them up.

— Seguin sits 13th in rookie scoring with 7-9-16.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Jerk Store

    But couldn’t you say the same thingg about Glenn Anderson? A different player to be sure but he played with speed and fearlessness and I don’t remember a big injury during his career. Of course Andy would occasionally attempt to take out a spleen of an overzealous defender with the old 5030 PMP, but he seemed to be “gumby-like” – a trait Hall shares. Not saying it is not going to happen Robin, but some guys get hurt by a rub out others go through the windshield / bug thing and seem impervious. I hope that Hall is the latter. Good to see Penner jump in but at some point Hall is going to have to defend himself in an Iginla like manner. Not all the time but enough to make guys think a little. And I think the kid has it in him.

    • Jerk Store

      I believe your data is incorrect…

      If you go and check the archives, you will see the Anderson did most of his handy work with unbreakable Canadian 9001 (the one with the rainbow sticker on the shaft).

    • Hall will fill out (he’s bigger now than at the draft) and he will eventually learn to cause defenders to at least pause with a well-placed elbow or length of shaft.

      If you’re going to attack at the speed Hall does, you’re going to get hit with a lot of velocity from time to time. It’s a different dynamic than a guy like Ryan Smyth, who gets beat on and bounced around a lot but mostly at low speed in the corners and the front of the net.

  • Jerk Store

    You are correct, sir. I was actually thinking “Canadien” as I was typing but could not remember the model. Actually had a 6001 as a kid. Hated it because it was basically a two by four with a blade, but could not break the damn think, short of driving over it with a tank. Shrewd investment by pops ~but pretty sure that stick is what kept me out of the show ~.

    • Jerk Store

      Now that I think of it, Anderson did use the 6001 for quite some time (later in his Oiler tenure). In fact, I might be confusing the 9001 with the 6001? I recall the 9001 being the model number of the first “aluminum” shaft???

      The 6001 (to my recollection) was white with blue and silver striped stickers.

      I wonder what the model number of the rainbow striped sticker, Canadien was???