I'm sure this comes as a shock to a number of our readers; Taylor Hall is in the top slot of the Top 25 Under 25. Again. Hall hasn't been at the top of this list each time the writers here have gone through the process, but that's only because he wasn't on the team the first time around. Since being drafted by the Oilers in 2010 Hall has had a strangle hold on the top spot in our rankings coming away with 46 of 49 first place votes in that time. Only Jon (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the summer of 2012) and Derek (Nail Yakupov the last two times) have cast a vote for anyone else at the top of the rankings.
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In some ways, Hall's dominance of the Top 25 makes writing him up difficult because everything that can be said has already been said. And probably said more than once. But I don't get paid big bucks here at the Copper & Blue to shy away from a tough task, so I'll give it a shot.
At this time last summer there were some questions about Hall, specifically how he would rebound from his shoulder surgery. This was a legitimate concern. Fans in Edmonton know how one shoulder injury can lead to another, and another. If Hall was started down that same path the light at the end of the rebuild tunnel was suddenly a lot further away. Thanks to the lockout though, there was no desire to push Hall back into the lineup even a minute before he was ready, and once NHL hockey returned he was back and better than than ever.
By almost every measure Hall's 2013 season was fantastic. With boxcars of 16-34-50 he led the Oilers in scoring by 12 points, finishing the season with 30% more points than second place Sam Gagner*. With 50 points Hall also became the first Oilers player to finish in the top ten in NHL scoring since Doug Weight finished eighth with 90 points in 2001/01. Hall's season was almost good enough to get him his first NHL award as a second team All-Star. I say almost because those who vote on the awards, the PHWA, struggle with the concept of position, and ended up awarding Alex Ovechkin both the first team right wing and second team left wing.
But Hall's season went beyond just his goals and assists. For those who like to look past the counting numbers, Hall's possession stats were great too. It doesn't matter what site or what you want to look at, you can go to behindthenet, or a check out a usage chart, or the did into the WOWY numbers, and each time you come away impressed about the season that Hall just finished. He was, by a very wide margin, the best player on the Oilers last season. All of this from a player who has only played 171 games in the NHL.
After the season Hall joined Team Canada at the World Championships. That tournament didn't go as well as Hall, and Canadians probably hoped, with Canada losing to the eventual gold medal winning team from Sweden in the quarter finals. Hall finished the tournament with two goals and an assist in eight games, a big step down from his production during the NHL season, but there were some questions about Hall's usage during the tournament, and that probably played a part his stats. Regardless, those who make the decisions for Team Canada weren't turned off by his work at the Worlds too much choosing to invite him to the Olympic Orientation Camp this August.
All in all it was a great year from the Oilers first first overall pick. The sky is the limit with this kid. Myself, I'm predicting 40 goals and another top ten finish in NHL scoring. And if that happens he'll get some MVP votes too. Hall is a very special player, and that's why we've ranked him at the top of the Top 25 Under 25. Again.
* Correction: I originally had Eberle second on the team in scoring.