Taylor Hall flew to OKC today for a two week conditioning stint. I spoke to him yesterday about a variety of topics from his conditioning, to rarely taking slapshots to his first impressions of Justin Schultz. Here is part one of our conversation.
JG: This is just a practice and conditioning stint for you, with no chance of playing games?
Taylor Hall: Yes, it’s no different than if I was to go down during a season where I was hurt and I needed to get back in shape. It’s just a practise segment for now. I could play games but it’s better to just keep it (left shoulder) healing and eventually I’ll work myself into game action.
JG: If the NHL was on right now, would you be playing?
TH: I think so, yeah. It’s just a lot different; we haven’t had to think about that. I was with the doctors today and we were kind of chatting if I would have been ready for that opportunity. Maybe, maybe not but I think that I would have played.
I have all of this time and if you look at the history it’s no different than Strasburg although I’m on the lower level. Guys that have had this surgery, the longer they do wait to make sure that it’s 100%, the better the long term results, so that’s what I’ve been focussed on. I could come back now but there is no point in coming back three weeks early to play in the AHL.
JG: Is the final step to get your complete range of motion back or is it strength?
TH: I’ll never get my complete range of motion back. It’s hard to explain to people. It is about strength and it’s in weird spots. When I would get hit last year my shoulder would be very vulnerable and it just wasn’t strong enough to hold up where my right shoulder would be. Right now it’s just getting back to that point where it’s strong in all spots, and I then can really protect myself.
JG: So is it a different type of rehab?
TH: It’s actually most of the muscles in the back. For listeners out there that are in tune with their body it would be your scapula, your traps, your delts, all of that kind of stuff. So it’s kind of interesting that in the summer all of my workouts were beach workouts to look good on the beach. I would have to do curls, and I would have to triceps just because I lost all of that muscle during surgery. It was a long process but I had fun with it. It’s not something that I would want to go through again; I kind of lost an entire summer. But I feel really good right now, and that’s the main thing.
JG: Because of the advancements in technology some suggest you might be stronger after you have the surgery. You said that your range of motion isn’t the same but what about the strength of your shoulder, do you think that it will be stronger than what it was before you had surgery?
TH: Yeah, well going into the surgery my shoulder was terrible. I remember the surgeon telling me he didn’t understand how I played hockey for the whole year with the shoulder that I had. So that’s a really good thing just for my mindset, knowing that I’ll have a better shoulder than I had before. But as far as noticing anything right now, the only thing that I notice is that my shot is a lot harder than before. Maybe that’s because I haven’t been in a game situation, but it feels a little bit stronger.
I’m happy with it. We’ll have to see how it does with contact, that’s pretty much what I’m going down to OKC for is contact. Once I get through that I think that it will be smooth sailing.
JG: I know that when I had you on the last time you talked about how you were a guy who is constantly shooting the puck; that’s how you got such a strong shot. When were 16 and 17 you were shooting a hundred pucks a day. During this rehab were you able to get back to shooting that often?
TH: Yeah, I was actually shooting pucks three months after my surgery and it kind of hurt after a while; I couldn’t take too many. But that’s something that I like to do in my offseason, just when I’m bored I like to go stick handle with the ball, a golf ball or a ping pong ball and then I’ll shoot some pucks. So after a while I was able to do that. I was starting to golf and I was able to do everything normally, and now it’s just making sure I’m a hockey player again. It’s hard to really get to 100% on the ice so I’m just practising with the Oil Kings. So to go down to OKC and really get in some contact and some hard practicing is going to be good for me.
JG: You don’t use a slap shot very often; do you ever practise the slap shot?
TH: No. Now that I’ve had my shoulder surgery the slap shot is the one thing that is really different for me. Raising my arm above my head is a little bit of a tough spot for me. So my slap shot probably isn’t as good as it was before but my one timer is fine. I don’t think that I’ll be taking too many slap shots anyways. I’m a winger, I don’t really have that opportunity too much to take a slap shot, it’s not like I’m a defenceman or anything.
JG: What about when you were a teenager or a young kid, were you ripping slap shots in practice all the time like most kids?
TH: No, just wrist shots. When I was practising shooting as a kid it was always wrist shots. I couldn’t take slap shots on the front pad because it was too loud for the neighbours. I’d always come down on the mat so it was always wrist shots that I worked on the whole time. I had coaches always telling me that slap shots were a waste of time because it takes so long to release the puck. However it does hide where you are going to shoot the puck when you do take a slap shot because the goalie can’t see where your blade is facing.
So as time goes on I’m sure I’ll incorporate the slap shot more into my game. But right now, it’s going to be a while before I try that. If I wanted to take slap shots I’m sure I could, it’s just that I’ve never really have, so I’ve never really tried.
JG: You don’t even snap it very often?
TH: There’s not too much difference between them. I probably take more snap shots than wrist shots. Ebby takes wrist shots; he doesn’t take a snap shot. Nuge takes snap shots all of the time. It’s just different guy to guy. I mean whatever situation you’re in on the ice you have to use a different shot, you have to handle the puck differently.
JG: Did you talk to Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins after the weekend, what were their impressions of the league and how did not having a pre-season impact them?
TH: I think that that was pretty toughgoing into a season where you don’t have any pre-season games, because I use those games to fine tune my game. For the summer you have so much time to think about your game, and then you have a couple of pre-season games to really fine tune and they didn’t really have that opportunity so it’s a little bit different.
With Ebs, he said that it was a hard league. The team that they played was a very good team, and they played them well. He said that it was kind of funny that they paid so much attention to him and Nuge that it was kind of a weird game for them. They were used to playing NHL teams where the focus was spread out and they play systems very well. Whereas Lake Erie was focussing on them really hard so it’s going to be an adjustment. I’m sure after a few games it’s going to feel like it did back in January when they were lighting it up.
But it’s going to be hard for me too, I’m sure that my first couple of games won’t be the best. Hopefully it only takes me a couple of periods to get used to it, but it’s a hard league, there are a lot of players that would be playing in the NHL right now. And for me the options, I look around the world and honestly I think that the AHL is probably the best league to play in.
JG: What were their impressions of Justin Schultz?
TH: I skated with Schultzy before the year and I know how good he’s going to be. And he showed that when he made a really nice pass the first night when I was watching. I didn’t see his goal, but he’s a great player. He’s super fast and offensively he’s like a forward out there, he can see the ice so well and he has a really great wrist shot from the point that he seems to get through every time. So with a guy like that, he’s someone that you can really trust on the blueline and I think for our power play in OKC and when we get back up to Edmonton it’s going to be really huge.
JG: In the NHL the transition game is so important and that’s where a lot of the teams beat other teams. You need defencemen who can move the puck quickly and accurately. Does Schultz have that in his arsenal; is he that good of a passer?
TH: I think he is and I think he’s also that good of a skater that after he passes he can jump up into the play too. Like you said the best teams in the league are the best transition teams. When you look at a team like Detroit as soon as they get the puck, it’s right up the ice. And that’s something that we need from our defence, from everyone on our team; we backcheck hard and as soon as we get it back we’re on offence. We want to score goals and that’s how we’re going to beat teams. So a guy like Schultz being back there, knowing that a guy like that can join the rush and be available is huge. Whether we use him on the rush or not he’s going to be an option and a very good one at that.
JG: Have you been watched any hockey online, or watched guys like Yakupov to see how he’s doing in the KHL right now.
TH: I’ve tried to see how everyone has done around the world, but it’s been different. You can’t really tell what team they’re on and who they play with on a line, but you can definitely see who’s doing well and who’s taking it seriously for sure. I saw Yakupov’s goal the other night. He has a great release. I’m looking forward to playing with him.