If you've been following the Oilers this season, I'm sure you already knew that Taylor Hall was going to be at the top of this list. The only surprising part is that, as you saw with Derek's ranking of Sam Gagner, Hall alone at the top is only a sort-of kind-of consensus. That, to be frank, is shocking. After all, Hall was drafted first overall, the best prospect in the world in his draft year, and to this point in the season has done nothing but deliver results: he's second on the club in scoring with thirty-one points (just one point back of Dustin Penner) and tied for the team lead in goals with sixteen; he leads the team in shots with 139, which is twenty clear of the man in second; he gets more ice time per game at EV than any other forward on the team; he's one of four Oiler forwards in the black in terms of scoring chances (the others are Penner, Ales Hemsky, and Shawn Horcoff) and his Corsi rating is the best on the club among regulars (Linus Omark and Taylor Chorney beat him out); his penalty differential of +1.1 per sixty minutes is third on the club, and first among regulars (Zack Stortini and Liam Reddox are both ahead); and he's done all of this with pretty limited shelter from the head coach. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Taylor Hall is the best prospect under 25 in the organization - he's probably the best player today.
Having already established that Taylor Hall has been fantastic so far this year, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how he's done relative to some of the comparables I identified over the summer. When I began, I used quite specific criteria, namely, forwards drafted in 1992 or later who were chosen in the top five picks, played their draft year in the CHL and scored within 0.15 points per game 0.10 goals per game of Taylor Hall in his draft year. The list was a short one: Patrick Marleau and Jason Spezza.
Because it was so short, I expanded the criteria to include players drafted in 1982 or later, and expanded the point range on the low end to include players who scored within 0.20 points per game less than Hall; I also kicked in Jason Arnott who met all of the criteria save that he was taken 7th overall. That expanded the list to seven players in total: Mike Modano (the everything goes right scenario), Patrick Marleau, Jason Spezza, Jason Arnott, Petr Nedved, David Legwand and Stu Barnes (the everything goes wrong scenario). I identified Marleau as my favourite, but Mike Modano also did quite well in the poll.
So how is Hall doing compared to these players? One complicating factor in that evaluation is age. Hall was quite old when he was drafted and some of these comparables were significantly younger. As such, in the chart below I've compared Hall to both the Draft +1 season and the 19 year-old season of the players listed above and normalized all point totals to an 82-game season:
I think it's most useful to compare Hall's season against the 19 year-old seasons listed above, so that's how I've organized the chart, and if we do that, we can see that Hall is tracking along nicely with Spezza and Marleau, behind Modano and Arnott, and well ahead of the rest of the pack, which is about what I expected. I think that Marleau remains the best comparable for Hall going forward for the combination of stats, position (C/LW), and style, but continue to hold out hope that he'll develop into the all-zone point-per-game player that Mike Modano was into his thirties.
But no matter how this divining turns out (maybe I'll bring out the Urim and Thummim for my next post), one thing is for sure: it will be a lot of fun to watch this young man improve.