With nothing left to decide on the ice – the Edmonton Oilers will finish in last place in the NHL this season – all eyes have shifted to a playoff battle between the Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires and Plymouth Whalers.
Windsor features the sublime Taylor Hall, while Plymouth counters with the awesome Tyler Seguin. But which one will be wearing an Oilers sweater on draft day this summer?
This week, let’s look at the case for Hall. The bigger name of the two, Hall has been a phenom in the OHL for several years now and really came to the hockey world’s attention last season when he was the MVP during Windsor’s run to the Memorial Cup title in Rimouski, Que.
A dynamic right winger who can also play center, Hall is dangerous because of his speed and his creativity. You can actually watch lesser opponents back off from him when he has the puck, lest he make them look silly.
At a sturdy 6-foot, 180 pounds, Hall has the musculature of an NHLer and although he will certainly add to his physique as the years of training continue, he’s very similar in stature to Atlanta’s Evander Kane, who went straight from the draft to playing in the NHL.
On top of that, Hall is the marquee name in the draft. He’s this year’s Steven Stamkos, John Tavares or Patrick Kane. Seguin will no doubt be a great player, but his fast rise has been overshadowed by Hall’s world juniors appearance and team success in the OHL.
The big question is, do the Oilers really want to be the team that passed on Hall? Sure, 2008 No. 2 overall pick Drew Doughty has quickly become a valuable member of the Los Angeles Kings and already has an Olympic gold medal to his credit, but no way was Tampa Bay going to pass on Stamkos with the top selection. This season, the electrifying pivot rewarded the Bolts by flirting with 50 goals as a sophomore.
Last year, there was talk of the Islanders picking Matt Duchene over Tavares. Duchene may have has better offensive numbers so far, the New York brain trust would have been flayed alive if they passed on J.T., and rightly so. Tavares is a franchise player who needs more weapons to play with. The Isles did their fan base right by taking him.
Similarly, if the Oilers win the draft lottery, Hall is their man. He’s been on the radar long enough for a reason.
This article also appeared in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.