SUN Hockey Pool

Hall's role growing on Oilers

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:39 PM ET

Taylor Hall, with every appearance, imposes himself more and more on hockey games.

In the last week alone there is every evidence, whether by intent or not, he’s making a charge for the Calder.

While the 19-year-old has consistently said it’s about who becomes the best hockey player in his career, not who becomes the best player in his first year, it’s now there for him.

Instead of the question of whether Taylor Hall could be in the final three for the June 22 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, the question is now if he might be the one to win it?

With a quarter of the season to go, the only No. 1 pick in the history of the Edmonton Oilers has put himself in position to catch Jeff Skinner for the rookie scoring crown and an opportunity to become the first NHL Rookie of the Year in team history as well.

“I’d certainly endorse him 100%,” said head coach Tom Renney, returning to town after Hall led the team to a fourth win in the last five games the night before in Colorado.

“In our circumstances, with our record ...”

With 21 goals and 21 games to go — 40 points tabulated so far — Hall is doing what he’s doing on a 30th-place team with the toughest schedule of opponents, playing on a line with another rookie and usually a young centre who is severely faceoff-challenged.

“I think he’s a candidate for sure. He’s such a driven guy,” said his coach.

Renney says he’s not sure Hall is really ramping up his play lately so much as the pucks are now finding a way in for him.

“He might be our most consistent player from Game 1.”

With four goals and two assists in his last four games, Hall moved within six points of Carolina’s Skinner and three points behind second-place Logan Couture in the rookie race, and heads into a homestand which features a visit by his “Taylor Or Tyler” draft opponent Tyler Seguin here Sunday.

If you are looking at the last 10 forwards selected No. 1 in the NHL Entry Draft, Hall is doing very well, thank you.

He passed Rick Nash and hs rookie totals (17-22-39) Wednesday night. Vincent Lecavalier (13-15-28), Joe Thornton (3-4-7) and Patrick Stefan (5-20-25) are already in his rear-view mirror. And Ilya Kovalchuk (29-22-51), John Taveres (24-30-54) and Steven Stamkos (23-23-46) are well within his sights.

Of all those guys, nobody has been easier to coach in his rookie year than this kid.

“He’s really an open-minded, exceptionally coachable kid,” said Renney.

“He’s a well thought-out guy. He gets it and gets it really quickly. And that’s the thing. It’s not just Taylor. He and the others are a coach’s dream. Jordan Eberle. Magnus Paajarvi. Linus Omark. Jeff Petry when he’s here ... They’re all really, really coachable. When you have that, you tend to give the horses the bit and keep giving them opportunity.”

Hall was the first rookie to produce a natural hat trick in the NHL in five years in his most recent home game, and is returning home against the St. Louis Blues off a two-point — a goal and an assist — game in his first experience playing in mile-high Denver.

He’s one point back of the team league in points production (40), tied for the lead in goals (21), leads in game-winning goals (4), shots (179) and, with 21 games to go in his first season, is already starting to make this HIS hockey team.

And one can’t help but wonder if that might become a factor in terms of what GM Steve Tambellini does if somebody makes him an interesting offer for Ales Hemsky and/or Dustin Penner between now and the Monday trade deadline.

It wouldn’t be fair to ask the coach to go there. But he does volunteer the way it is with this kid.

“The respect he has and shows for the organization and the veteran players is evident. But he makes it real clear his intent is to become one of the better players on the team and in the league.

“He has a real respect for the dressing room and the dynamics of it. But you can see when he goes over the boards that he wants to be the difference in his shift.

“Every time he plays a game, very time he opens his mouth, you can see he’s going to be able to fullfill an ambassador’s role down the road.

“He’s ready for that right now.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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