At the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Oilers owned the first overall pick and faced a choice: to draft Taylor Hall, the dynamic left winger who had been the favourite entering the season, or centre Tyler Seguin, who had enjoyed a superb year and was the only other challenger.
They chose Taylor over Tyler. Did they make the right decision?
A year in, the decision looked pretty good. As rookies, Seguin was stuck in a depth role on a very strong Boston Bruins team (he has a Stanley Cup ring now, thanks to the Oilers’ decision) and looked the part – he finished with 22 points in the regular season and his line got outshot badly despite the fact that he was playing for a pretty good team.
Hall meanwhile played a feature role on a miserable Oilers squad, finishing one point out of the team scoring lead despite losing time down the stretch after an ill-advised fight that led to injury.
A year later, things are less clear cut.
Seguin blossomed in his second NHL season, scoring 29 goals and recording 67 points, finishing as the scoring leader on the 102-point Boston Bruins. He had some advantages – the Patrice Bergeron line, as has been the case for a long time in Boston, took on the big defensive zone minutes, but Seguin’s group out-shot and out-scored their opponents.
In Edmonton, Hall also took a step forward, scoring 27 goals and recording 53 points in just 61 games. Not only that, but Hall’s line dominated the shot clock, though he had the same sort of zone start advantages that Seguin enjoyed in Boston. The problem was less with his play than with injury – this is the second season in a row Hall’s year has been cut short. Not only did he suffer a concussion, but he’s undergoing off-season shoulder surgery to repair a problem that’s plagued him since junior.
Did the Oilers make the right decision? The answer to that question isn’t clear, and likely won’t be clear at any point over the next decade, unless injury plays a hand. Hall was the safer choice to carry over his junior performance to the NHL (having a longer track record in junior than Seguin) but Seguin plays a more influential position – centres controlling the game to a greater degree than wingers.
Hall’s a splendid player, and choosing him was a defensible decision. I don’t know how it will turn out over the long run, but it’s not a decision I regret seeing made, and if I had to bet I’d bet on Hall having the higher-end career, and Seguin the longer one.
Note: As has been pointed out in the comments, while Seguin is expected to play centre eventually, he’s spent much of his time in Boston on the wing, while David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron have played up the middle. At this moment in time, both players are wingers.
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