SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers counting on the kids

Oilers rookies (left to right) Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are the most...

Oilers rookies (left to right) Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are the most counted-on youngsters to bring the club out of oblivion. (DOREEN THUNDER/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Taylor Hall’s weight jumped from 185 to 194 in the three months since Edmonton picked him first overall.

Who knew the weight of the world was only nine pounds?

The marquee man in the club’s resurrection effort showed up for fitness and medical testing Friday looking bigger and more relaxed than he was in June, says he’s ready to begin his journey into the NHL and seems quite at peace with the staggering expectations.

“I feel a little bit stronger,” said Hall, who’ll see his first live fire in Oilers colours this week at the five-team rookie tournament in Penticton. “I don’t want to come here this season promising the world, but I do feel strong and I feel that I’m ready to play.

“Since the development camp (in mid summer) I’ve turned into a stronger player and a more mature person. I’ve realized I have to change everything I do in my life to be in the NHL.”

Saviour might be too strong a word for Hall and the rest of the kids, but not by much. This is a thoroughly gutted last-place team that hasn’t made the playoffs in four years; everybody in Edmonton (inside the organization and out) is counting on Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi to lead them out of the gutter and back to the promised land.

They’re cool with that.

“With my play on the ice, I put myself in the spotlight and I’ve put myself in a position to have a lot of pressure on myself,” said the 18-year-old winger. “I think I’ve always been able to adapt to that. This is obviously a whole different animal, it’s the NHL and it’s a Canadian city … but being able to go through this with a couple of other guys, knowing that the pressure is on us, it’s a weird feeling, something that we’re not totally used to, but if we relish it and take the pressure off and play as kids, we’ll be fine.”

Eberle, who’s been cut by the Oilers two years in a row, plans on making the coaching staff an offer they can’t refuse this year.

“The fun begins now, I can’t wait to get on the ice and get this going,” said the former Regina Pat, who’s also put on a few pounds of muscle. “I think I was ready last year and this year I want to improve on that — not only improve, but earn a spot and hopefully go running into the season.

“Me and Hallsy were talking and we don’t want to be guys who just kind of drift into the spot and not earn it.”

Eberle, like Hall, spent much of the summer trying for the perfect balance of size and speed. He checked in at about 185, up from 174 last year.

“I’ve gained some weight but it hasn’t slowed me down,” he said. “I’ve almost gotten quicker. Some guys bulk up like crazy in the summer and they’re slower. For me I’ve gotten quicker and gained weight and that’s where I want to be.”

It’s going to be a very fresh and entertaining ride this season, and while the enormity of their situation won’t fully hit them till they put blades to ice in regular season games, they’re getting snips of it already.

“It’s definitely starting to seep in,” said Hall. “You know you’re in the NHL when you walk up to the pictures stand and they have a hairdresser waiting for you to cut your hair before you do it.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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