The reign of Taylor Hall continues as the top ranked player in the organization under the age of 25. I could get into a bunch of statistical analysis here to try and explain to everyone why Taylor Hall is so good, but really, if you are a regular reader here, you already know. Derek Zona has a number of terms he uses to describe the Kingston Cannonball: "Force of Nature", "Freak", "Ridiculous", etc. All of them are very appropriate. Hall is in a class of his own on this list. To me, it still isn't close. I will admit to a mistake in my rankings. I ranked the players very early into the shortened season and had RNH at #2 when in reality, it should absolutely be Yakupov. In our write up of Yakupov at #2, Derek made the case for Nail being #1:
"They're so similar, in fact, that I had them tied at #1 on the list for awhile before making up my mind to go with Yakupov. My reasoning is based on health. Taylor Hall has not demonstrated an ability to stay healthy as a professional."
He makes a valid point, but the deciding factor for me is simply this: Nail Yakupov looks like he is going to be a great player, Taylor Hall IS a great player.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Michael||Ryan||Scott|
This should be a love-fest for Taylor Hall, and make no mistake, I think the guy is absolutely phenomenal, but he's not beyond criticism, so let's look at him objectively for a minute: Hall is an ice-tilter all by himself, of that there is no question. He drives possession for the Oilers and makes his linemates better each and every game.
However, he does still have some things he needs to work on. To me, there are times when Hall looks like he has trouble thinking the game as fast as he moves on the ice. In particular, I notice this when he has the puck. Hall is tremendous at gaining the zone with possession or retrieving the puck when the other team gets control in their own end, but when on a rush, Hall frequently resorts to the same ineffective moves too often or just doesn't make one at all.
I'm not a huge believer in shot quality analysis, but I find that because Hall is frequently the one who brings the puck over the line, too many of his shots come from bad angles outside of the primary scoring areas on the ice because he has trouble beating a defender who is square up to him. It has been especially noticeable this year because Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been so awful. If RNH can get his game back or Hall starts playing with different linemates, then I think we'll start to see Hall gain the zone and try to distribute the puck a bit sooner so he can get into a shooting position before taking a return feed.
This one item along with the previously mentioned health concerns are the only things I can say about Hall in a negative way. Some may point to the fact that for a purported goal scorer, Hall only has five goals this season to-date, but in that instance, I would point out that he is currently battling a shooting % of approximately half of his career average from his first two seasons. If Hall were to be shooting in the 11-12% range he would have in the neighbourhood of 10 goals and 28 points and be just outside the top 10 in league scoring. I think part of this has to do with the issues mentioned above and will begin to normalize through sheer regression (his PDO is down at 965) coupled with his linemates getting their acts together.
The bottom line here is that despite the fact that he's not perfect, criticizing Hall's game is like looking for flaws in a Picasso painting. What's the point? Just step back and enjoy it for what it is...Brilliant.
Hall is simply dominating when he is on the ice. And I make sure to use that term specifically because, funny enough, I wrote Hall's #1 post last time we did our Top 25 Under 25, and at that time I said the following:
"To have a 20 year old player who can produce at his level and do so while providing protection for some of the other young players who are not yet capable of playing the tough minutes is truly a gift. Dominant is a word I hesitate to use with him just yet, but he is on the verge of becoming one of the league's truly dominant forwards."
I don't hesitate to use that term anymore. Hall is dominant. When he is healthy, he is almost always the best player in every game he plays in. Oiler fans should really do their best to watch closely and truly appreciate this guy's talent. They haven't seen anything like it in a generation.