EDMONTON – They wined and dined him, poked and prodded him.
Windsor Spitfires forward Taylor Hall was in Edmonton on Thursday for a job interview of sorts with the NHL team that controls his fate.
But he left saying he’s no closer to knowing whether he will be an Oiler after the draft at the end of the month.
“I’m not the one picking,” Hall said when asked if he thought he was Edmonton’s man on June 25. “I think it would be pretty cool to play here.”
Debate has been raging for months over whether Hall or OHL rival Tyler Seguin will be selected by the Oilers with the first overall pick. Seguin, of the Plymouth Whalers, finished just ahead of Hall in the latest NHL Central Scouting rankings.
Hall became the first player to be named MVP of the Memorial Cup in back-to-back years last month, after leading the Spitfires to a successful defence of their CHL title. The 18-year-old led the tournament in scoring, collecting nine points in four games as Windsor rolled over the opposition in Brandon, Man.
Hall is a fearless winger with a thirst for scoring goals. He played with a fierce intensity at the Memorial Cup. In his first game, he crashed head-first into the boards before returning to spark a rout of the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings.
But Seguin is more of a natural centre, a playmaker who generally did the best he could with a weaker team.
The Boston Bruins have the second overall pick by virtue of a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hall was in Beantown last week for a meeting with that club, including former Bruins great Cam Neely.
His trip to Edmonton consisted of lunch at south-side bistro, a physical and a trip to Rexall Centre.
He got a tour of the dressing rooms and team brass pointed out all the spots on the ice where Wayne Gretzky made history during his tenure with the club.
He met with the media, too, and tried to say all the right things.
Smiles shot across the faces of the assembled corps when he said he pulled for Calgary as a kid.
“I know that sounds bad,” he said, quick to note he wasn’t an Oiler hater.
He laughed when asked if he knew the difference between the Alberta drinking age—18—and the drinking age in Massachusetts—21.
“Doesn’t matter to me. I am a hockey player.”
Is he a steak man or a seafood man?
“I like steak.”
Hall was to meet recluse billionaire Daryl Katz on Thursday night, the owner of the team who is currently trying to convince the people of Edmonton that the city needs a new rink.
Asked if he was prepared not only to play in the high-pressure environment of Edmonton, but be the face of the team as it tries to pull itself out of the gutter, Hall didn’t flinch.
“I haven’t been drafted here. I don’t know what to expect,” he started.
“But I know that playing in Windsor, I was the face of that team. I was the second overall draft pick in the OHL draft and I came to a team that was one of the worst teams in the league. The next year we were pretty good and the next couple years we won the Memorial Cup.
“I think I am pretty used to rebuilding a team and being a part of that kind of structure.”