TORONTO – Taylor Hall scored a goal in each of his first two shifts to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a convincing win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, and the 18-year-old phenom was swarmed by reporters within minutes of the final horn.
He played along, even though it was only a video game, played in sandals instead of skates.
“I thought the guys played hard today,” Hall said with a smirk. “We really stuck to our game plan. Came out first shift. Got two goals. Can’t really hope for anything better than that. We’ll take a couple days off here, get some rest and get back to the grindstone.”
He was standing next to Tyler Seguin, the rival he had just vanquished in the first round of a tournament held to promote EA Sports “NHL 11,” a popular video game brand set to relaunch Sept. 7. Hall also acknowledged his introduction to the real thing will be more difficult after he reports for rookie medicals with the Oilers on Sept. 10.
Edmonton selected the talented winger first overall in the NHL entry draft this summer after watching him lead the Windsor Spitfires to a second straight Memorial Cup title. He became the first player to earn back-to-back MVP honours.
Hall has spent the past few months relaxing and healing his wounds, preparing for a grind set to begin with a five-day rookie tournament in Penticton, B.C.
“With the rookie camp, there’s going to be the top-tier CHL players,” Hall said Tuesday. “After that, it’s going to be an NHL camp where you’re playing with men. I’ve tried to get on the ice this summer as much as I can with pros, with NHL guys, to get me used to that.”
In the same breath, he acknowledged that practising with big league competition is not the same as actually competing in the big leagues.
“There’s no really preparing for that,” he said. “I think, once I get into camp and play a couple of exhibition games, hopefully, I’ll get used to it. But I don’t really know what to expect yet.”
Hall signed a three-year entry level deal with the Oilers in July, and will attempt to jump from a dominant junior team to a rebuilding NHL franchise. Edmonton earned the right to claim Hall’s services after finishing last in the league last year, 12 points behind the 29th-place Toronto Maple Leafs.
The transition will not be jarring in that respect, Hall said, because the Spitfires were struggling to keep up with their Ontario Hockey League competition when he joined them three years ago. Windsor did not lose a game at the Memorial Cup this year in Brandon, Man.
“We really built it up,” Hall said. “So, hopefully, we can rekindle that sort of stuff in Edmonton. I think we have a really good young nucleus of guys.”
The Calgary-born forward made a series of modest escapes during his vacation, heading south to Cancun and out to a series of cottage getaways. He said the back injury that prevented him from participating in the NHL’s draft combine is healed, along with a nagging knee injury he had been battling.
“I haven’t been on the ice a whole lot, but I feel the summer’s been really good for me,” he said. “I’ve got some good work in, but I’ve also taken some good time off.”
Edmonton is set to open training camp loaded with potential, but facing a long climb as prospects such as Hall, winger Jordan Eberle (22nd overall, 2008) and fellow winger Magnus Paajarvi (10th overall, 2009) try to break into the league.
“We can draw from each other, we can use each other for advice,” Hall said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”