SUN Hockey Pool

Taylor-made Calder year?

A controversy is likely to soon begin as to whether Taylor Hall will deserve to be the first winner...

A controversy is likely to soon begin as to whether Taylor Hall will deserve to be the first winner in Oilers history of the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. (PERRY NELSON/QMI Agency Files)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:02 AM ET

EDMONTON - If Taylor Hall was a horse — and he is — he’d be described as well-positioned going down the backstretch of the Calder Stakes.

Tomorrow night in Dallas, Hall hits the halfway mark of his rookie year as the first No. 1 overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft in the entire history of the Edmonton Oilers.

A controversy is likely to soon begin as to whether he’ll also deserve to be the first winner in Oilers history of the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.

With 12 goals and 11 assists going into the team’s 41st game of the season, Hall projects to roughly a 25-goal, 25-assist, 50-point campaign.

That would compare favourably with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and his 23-23-46 season two years ago, or John Tavares and his 24-30-54 point season for the New York Islanders last year.

Hall’s projected totals also stack up nicely against the 29-22-51 Ilya Kovalchuk posted in his rookie year for the Atlanta Thrashers.

That’s a far cry, of course, from Alex Ovechkin’s 52-54-106, Sidney Crosby’s 39-63-102 or even Patrick Kane’s 21-71-72 in their rookie years, but the 19-year-old Hall long ago surpassed Joe Thornton’s 3-4-7 rookie season.

Hall can match Patrick Stefan’s 5-20-25 by the midway mark, is closing in on Vincent Lecavalier’s 13-15-28 and is well within range of Rick Nash’s 17-22-39.

The aforementioned players are the last 10 forwards selected No. 1 in the draft.

You get the idea.

There’s no knocking Hall’s rookie year so far, especially if you factor in his compete level and his commitment to improvement.

There were people, and they know who they are, who suggested Hall be sent back to junior after his first nine games. Indeed, he only had seven points to show for his first 17 NHL outings.

While he only has one goal and one assist in the last five games, Hall has still been getting the chances.

His lack of production lately involves mostly puck luck and what’s going on around him. He’s not exactly playing for the San Jose Sharks here.

If you rate players on a 1-10 basis, most nights Hall is a solid six, sometimes a seven.

There’s a consistency there that doesn’t exist with most of his teammates, especially in the compete area.

The Calder Stakes are still anybody’s race, with Carolina Hurricanes centre Jeff Skinner the top point-producer at 13-18-31, followed by Sharks centre Logan Couture (18-9-27) and New York Rangers centre Derek Stepan (12-12-24) going into Sunday’s games.

Hall, injured teammate and roommate Jordan Eberle and Chicago Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickel all had 23 points, with Hall’s Windsor Spitfires teammate, defenceman Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks, standing at 21.

Many expect this is going to come down to Couture versus Hall. While it’s on the back burner now, it’ll start to sizzle if it becomes a two-horse race.

Couture is a 21-year-old who played 25 games (5-4-9) last year with the Sharks, plus another 15 games in the playoffs. One more regular-season game and he wouldn’t be eligible as a rookie this season.

How can a guy with 25 regular-season games and 15 playoff games be considered a rookie?

Most hockey people tend to view playoff game experience as being worth two or three games of regular-season experience.

The Oilers have had more than their fair share of NHL trophy winners over the years, but an Edmonton player has never copped the Calder.

In the Oilers first year in the league, Wayne Gretzky was ruled ineligible to be rookie of the year because he’d played in the World Hockey Association.

After years of the NHL putting the WHA down as a grossly inferior league, that was considered an outrage — especially in light of the fact the Calder went to Peter Stastny, who had spent a decade playing for Czechoslovakia on the international stage.

There’s a whole lot of hockey to be played between now and the end of the season, but if it turns out to be Couture versus Hall for the Calder, there’s a significant difference in numbers and playing time in favour of Couture — and he’ll probably win it.

Eligible is eligible.

But if it’s close, if it’s a coin flip, Hall’s head will be on both sides of the coin.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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