Will Hall Help?

I don't believe in tanking and I don't believe in the Dive for Five. To quote an American coach of some repute, you play to win the game.

But let's face it, it's gonna happen with or without the Oilers' cooperation. The Oilers stink, and they may stink at historical levels. They may '93 Senators stink. That sort of stink doesn't wash off easy. On this, the day when the Carolina Hurricanes have finally relegated the Oilers to the basement in which they belong, it's worth asking ourselves if our inevitable lottery pick will be Patrick Kane turning around the Blackhawks, or Alexei Yashin.

So far this season, Taylor Hall is averaging a quite good 1.76 points per game. Tyler Seguin is averaging a slightly better 1.80 points per game. Neither of these are bad numbers for a kid in his draft year in the CHL, even by the standards of offense-first forwards of average size meant to go in the the top three overall of the NHL draft. Both Hall and Seguin lead their teams in scoring by wide margins, which is also what you want to see: they're not building their stats on the backs of their teammates, letting us get a better picture of what they can do.

Some people go in for Gabe Desjardins's NHL equivalencies when talking about these things. In this case, there's no need to resort to such opaque math. Offense-first CHL forwards are pretty common high draft choices, so we need only compare Hall and Seguin to some of those picked out of earlier drafts who fall into the same category.

Like all bad mathematicians, I make it sound so simple!

Well, first off,. here's the bad news. Running the numbers, neither Hall nor Seguin is a generational talent like Sidney Crosby. The Kid rang up a 2.71 PPG in his draft year, and although the Rimouski Oceanic were eventual Memorial Cup finalists that number is still out of skew with what his teammates were producing.

Okay, you're looking at the monitor as if I'm deranged. Taylor Hall isn't Sidney Crosby. I think we knew that. Can we please get on with it?

Would it help if I said neither of them are John Tavares either? Once overhyped as the Next One, Tavares had his best year of junior at age sixteen and regressed since then, still snaring the first overall pick last year almost by default. Tavares posted a 1.86 PPG his draft year, and currently with the New York Islanders his play has been not bad, but certainly not anything to write home about. It's early days but in his first season on the Island Tavares certainly isn't leading New York to any playoff charges.

They also fall perilously short of 2007's sixth overall pick, a fellow you may have heard of by the name Sam Gagner. Gagner, currently a little-regarded second-line centre with the worst team in the NHL, posted 2.23 points-per-game with the London Knights that season. But that gaudy total comes with an asterisk, as even on his own team he was well behind first overall selection Patrick Kane, who put up a 2.50 PPG his draft year.

Now, as we all know, the London Knights are weird. They play their best players until their hearts explode and an awful lot of players with awfully gaudy point totals have come out of there and proceeded to do nothing (hell, we drafted one of them). It almost seemed fairer to excluse Gagner and Kane and focus on Jakub Voracek, but the comparison had to be made. Both Hall and Seguin are comfortably clear of Voracek's draft year number of 1.46.

The Terrible T[a]ylors are also clear of the second-highest-scoring CHL forward from the Crosby year, Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan and his 1.61 PPG. Ryan isn't quite a fair comparison, as he is bigger and stronger than either Hall or Seguin, but he's having a successful enough start to his career even if it's taken him a while to get there. When we draft first or second overall, though, I think we're all hoping for more than a good second-line forward out of this.

Unfortunately, that's roughly the bracket Hall and Seguin fall into. They're ahead of guys who really struggled as teenage NHLers (Evander Kane, with a 1.57 PPG, or Gilbert Brule with a 1.24) but behind the serious impact players like Patrick Kane, Crosby, or even Tavares. When we draft Hall or Seguin, we're going to get a pretty good player who can do some nice things and who wouldn't kill himself if he played on the 2009-10 Oilers and faced soft minutes.

But that's all we're going to get.

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