Taylor Hall may be less than two weeks removed from his 17th birthday, but he is already turning hockey heads as the projected first overall pick in his NHL Draft year. The amazing thing about this is that, because of his late birthday, Hall won’t be eligible to be drafted until 2010.
What this means for Hall is one more year playing for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL and one more year for NHL scouts to salivate over the slick center.
While talk about being the projected first overall NHL pick may be stressful for some 17-year-olds, Hall is taking it one stride at a time and is modelling himself after this year’s projected first overall pick, John Tavares.
“A player like me can see what [Tavares] is going through and how he handles it and you can see on the ice what he’s doing and how he has matured as a player. Hopefully I can do that,” said Hall. “I listen to a lot of his interviews and he has become a really mature man and hopefully I can do the same.”
In his debut season with the Spits, Hall led Windsor and all OHL rookies with 45 goals while pitching in 39 assists for 84 points in just 63 games. These numbers earned him the OHL’s Emms Family Award (given to the league’s top first year player) and the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) Rookie of the Year award.
On the national stage, Hall – 16 years old at the time – was fifth in overall scoring at the IIHF World Under 18 Championship as a member of Team Canada’s gold medal winning team. He would return later that year and lead Team Canada in scoring at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament on the way to yet another gold.
“[Hall] can shoot in stride and he can make plays in high speed,” Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray told TSN. “He’s a very dangerous player and a player who’s always a threat to score in every shift out there.”
With a dominating freshman year in the review mirror, Hall turned his attention to destroying any thought of a sophomore curse and has set his eyes on an OHL Championship.
Hall came out of the gates guns-a-blazing in 2008-09, recording three points in each of his first two games. He didn’t stop there. Hall recorded a point in 20 of his first 21 games, 11 of which were multiple point efforts. In those 21 games, Hall’s Spitfires went 19-2 and 8-0 at home. The newly turned 17-year-old has been the Spitfires’ main offensive threat and a huge reason why the Spits are the No. 1-ranked team in Canada.
“I really don’t think of it as pressure, I think of it as an opportunity,” said Hall. “I love playing on a team like that, I love being the go-to-guy, but if it’s not me, another guy on the team is going to step up.”
Currently, Hall continues to lead the OHL (yes, even Tavares) in points and sits second in all of the CHL with 43 points in 26 games.
Most recently, Hall was the only non-draft eligible player to be selected to play on Team OHL in the 2008 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge, where he got a chance to play with the aforementioned Tavares.
In the recent weeks, the much talked about phenom, John Tavares, has been rumoured to be on the trading block with a highly possible suitor being Hall’s Spitfires.
“[The potential trade] was mentioned, but at the same time, he’s not a Spitfire yet and our management is going to decide what’s best for our team. I think you can see by tonight [Monday’s OHL/Russia tilt in St. Catharines], I love playing with him and anytime you can get a chance to play with a player like that, I’ll take it,” said Hall. “He might end up in a Spitfire uniform but if not I think we got a team to go for it all.”
With or without Tavares, if Hall continues the pace that he has set thus far, he should draw some serious consideration for the World Junior team as well as OHL MVP and could be well on his way to being the forever talked about “next one”.