Hall ready to step up for Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers selected Winsdor Spitfires forward Taylor Hall as the No. 1 pick at the 2010...

The Edmonton Oilers selected Winsdor Spitfires forward Taylor Hall as the No. 1 pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 25, 2010. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - It wound up being a couple of great days in the City of Angels if your name was Taylor.

About 24 hours after hundreds of screaming fans packed the area outside of the Staples Center for a glimpse of actor Taylor Lautner at the premiere of the latest film in the Twilight saga, the cheers inside the arena Friday night were for Taylor Hall.

The lanky winger from the Windsor Spitfires was picked first overall in the NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers over centre Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers, ending months of speculation.

Hall went first overall despite being the second-ranked North American skater behind Seguin.

Hall’s selection was cheered by a large contingent of Oilers fans who had made the trip from Edmonton and took up a section just up to the left of the stage.

“I’m so happy right now to join such a great franchise,” said Hall, bringing up the Oilers Stanley Cup dynasty of the 1980s. “Hopefully I can make the team next year. That’s the first step. Hopefully we can resurrect the magic they had.”

Hall showed himself to be a player who could be at his best when it mattered most as he was the first player to win back-to-back MVP awards at the Memorial Cup since the award was first presented in 1972. In leading the Spitfires to their second-straight Memorial Cup in May, he led the tournament in scoring with five goals and four assists in four games. He was the only draft-eligible player on Team Canada at the world junior tournament in January, winning a silver medal and being named to the tournament all-star team after scoring six goals and six points in the tournament, second on Team Canada.

“He just might be the most exciting player in this year’s draft,” said E.J. McGuire, the head of the NHL’s central scouting bureau. “He’s the combination of everything you want in the first pick overall.”

“Taylor is a dynamic skater who is fearless when he goes to the net,” said Spitfires coach Bob Boughner.

Hall’s dad, Steve, was a receiver in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Edmonton Eskimos and the Ottawa Rough Riders. Born in Calgary, while Steve was with the national boblsed program, Hall grew up as a fan of the Flames, the other half of the bitter Battle of Alberta.

“I’ve gone from playing in my backyard in Calgary to playing in the big rink in Edmonton,” said Hall.

The Boston Bruins, using the second pick overall, which had been acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel trade, selected Seguin.

There was a moment of intrigue, however, as Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was working the phone on the Bruins table in the middle of the draft floor with talk the Oilers had of the Plymouth Whalers, who had been rated the top North American skater by the NHL’s central scouting bureau.

“He’s a right-shot centreman that a team is going to be build it’s franchise around in the future,” said McGuire.

The Florida Panthers made Ottawa native Erik Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL the third pick. Despite battling mononucleosis this season and a knee injury, the 6-foot-4 Gudbranson, who has drawn comparisons to Chris Pronger, beat out American Cam Fowler of the Windsor Spitfires to be the first defenceman picked.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made the first slightly surprising pick, opting for centre Ryan Johansen of the Portland Winterhawks with the fourth pick. Johansen, who grew three inches in the past year to 6-foot-3, was projected outside the top 10 in some rankings. He was the 10th-ranked North American skater by CSB, but had been rocketing up the charts.

The New York Islanders used the fifth pick to take Swiss winger Nino Niederreiter and rookie general manager Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning used the sixth choice to take right wing Brett Connolly, a highly-regarded player who might have challenged for top spot if he hadn’t missed all but 16 games with hip flexor problems.

As the draft got underway, the rumour sweeping the floor was the Florida Panthers had traded defenceman Keith Ballard and prospect Vivtor Oreskovich to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and the 25th pick overall. The deal was apparently conditional on the player the Canucks wanting with that 25th pick not being available.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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