a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

08/02/11 58.0 Rookie Report Card: Taylor Hall

There's something about seeing Taylor Hall in a Spitfires uniform that just hasn't been captured in the images of him as an Oiler yet. During his time in Windsor, Hall was the go-to guy of all go-to guys and he looked the part, while in Edmonton he still has the appearance of a fresh faced rookie who is learning the ropes. And yet, there are indications among his stats that show just how good he is going to be. Taylor Hall receives an A- for his rookie season. Below is the explanation.

Perhaps the most telling of all of Hall's stats as a rookie is not the amount of goals he put up, or even the number of points. It's the number of shots. Hall fired 186 shots at the opposition in just 65 games this season (not including the numerous shots that missed or were blocked). He was on pace for 235 shots on goal over a stretch of 82 games, which puts him into some elite company.

Since the lockout, only five other rookies have hit the net with that many shots, even if we take into account the players who didn't appear in 82 games and calculate their pace. In 2005-06 there was Alex Ovechkin who had a staggering 425 shots on goal, and Sidney Crosby who had 278. The following year Evgeni Malkin had 242 shots as a rookie, but for three years after that no rookie matched or bettered 235 SOG. This past season Hall was surpassed by Logan Couture, who had 253 shots, and Michael Grabner was on pace for 246.

However, Hall was on pace to have more shots than Kopitar was (220) as a rookie in 2006-07, and more than Paul Stastny's 185. He would have put more rubber on net than Patrick Kane (191), Peter Mueller (201), and Jonathan Toews (on pace for 185 over 82 gms) in 2007-08. Hall pounded more pucks between posts than Steven Stamkos' 181, or Bobby Ryan (on pace for 223 over 82 gms) in 2008-09. And in 2009-10, Bergfors (217), Tavares (186), Duchene (180) and Van Riemsdyk (173) weren't even close. During a full, healthy season, Hall would have put more shots on goal than Jeff Skinner's 215 as well.

The importance of a player getting a pile of shots on goal should be obvious. Taylor Hall is a player with a passion for scoring and that shows in the amount of times he directs the puck toward the net. What's more, he has the talent and the drive to actually get a large number of shots. The Oilers can certainly use more players like him, since they have been pitiful in shots per game since 2006-07. The chart below illustrates the Oilers' woes in putting up shots:

YearOilers' Shots per Game (League Rank)

The Oilers were still second-last in shots per game last year even with Hall, but this team was devastated by injuries including an extended injury to number 4. Hall still led the Oilers in shots, despite missing the last 17 games of the season. If he can dial in his accuracy a little more, this player shouldn't have any trouble posting 35-45 goals on a consistent basis.

Hall took a little time to get adjusted to the NHL, but once he found his game he should have been in the conversation for the piece of hardward pictured above, which goes to the league's top rookie.

In his first 20 games Hall had 9 points; in his next 20 he had 14 points; and in his last 25 games he had 19 points. His points per game average went from 0.45 p/g in the first 20 games to 0.7 p/g in the next 20, to 0.76 p/g in the final 25. Even if his p/g average merely stayed at 0.76 after game 65, Hall would have been on pace for another 13 points before season's end, bringing his overall total to 55. He probably wouldn't have had much trouble at least nearing 30 goals as a rookie.

All of these numbers show two things:

1) Hall did with his rookie season what rookies should do: he learned to adapt to the NHL
2) He is already a dominant force at age 19 and is having little trouble translating his game to the next level

If he can continue his upward trajectory going into next season, Hall should be a tremendous weapon for the Oilers' arsenal.

Hall's injury is the only thing that spoiled an otherwise impressive rookie campaign, but it's hard to dock him too many points for standing up for himself. Aside from a totally healthy season out of Hall, Oilers fans and management couldn't have asked for much more.

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