Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers has really grown into a top tier NHL player this season and his potential from the draft days of Taylor vs. Tyler back in 2010 is finally being reached.
It’s not unfair to say he already proved he was an above average player before this year. In just his third season, 2012-2013, he had 50 points in 45 games for a 1.11 points per game average. He followed that up in 2013-2014 with his finest offensive year yet, tying a career high 27 goals. He added a remarkable 53 assists for 80 points and a second consecutive season ppg average above 1. He was effective enough, but was he really being number 1 overall pick effective?
In his first 5 seasons he recorded 106 goals and 157 assists for 263 points(.87 ppg). That’s nothing to sneeze at for sure, but in these same 5 years he had a combined plus/minus of -23. He finished only ONE season above even, +5 in 2012-2013. Yet as a fourth year player when he reached a career high 80 points, he was also a career low -15 and of his 27 goals, just one was a game winner. With all the pressure of saving the Oilers he just tried to do too much all the time instead of taking the time to develop. That is evidenced in the most important stat of all.
In Hall’s first 5 seasons he played in 299 games, and over this span he missed more than 70 games due to injury and never had a complete year.
His rookie campaign featured a season ending ankle injury(granted it was during a fight) and he followed that up with a season ending concussion in his sophomore year. It’s been on again off again for him all his career.
Most stars don’t get hit on a regular basis. You can say it’s because of unwritten rules and fear/respect or whatever you want, but it also comes with decision making. When you see the Sedins on the puck, or Crosby and Malkin, Kane and Toews, or almost every single player on Detroit, there’s a calmness to the rush. A sense of control. They can be explosive but they don’t have to always be. When Taylor first entered the league he had only one speed: Ludicrous speed. When he would get the puck and streak through the neutral zone it was a thing of beauty, but also provided some of the most terrifying moments of my life as an Oilers fan. He would never appraise the situation first, just blast off and hope nothing got in the way. In the corners he seemed to have no situational awareness. For most of 5 years he was straight puck focus.
Finally, in 2015-2016, he’s learned patience. He’s learned to use a change of speed. He’s learned the difference between being fast and being quick, and he’s not taken one big hit this year that I can think of. He’s got 41 points in 41 games, and he went from a -16 and one game winning goal over the previous two seasons to an easy career high +11 with 5 game winners already and half a year left to go. He’s a more mature player now who makes better choices and finds unique ways to attack with the puck.
Here’s a sample of the types of hits he used to take that no other star player usually takes, especially not on such a regular basis.