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

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Sunday, 29 July 2012

07/27/12 Rising: Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall is the first subject of a new series of rising and falling players and teams. Injuries have cut Hall's first two seasons short, but he's ready to explode offensively. Here's why.

Expectations are sky high for a first overall pick, and aside from injuries Taylor Hall has produced at an elite level for a player his age. Since the lockout, Hall is seventh in points per game by players 20 and under who appeared in at least 100 games. He's fourth in goals per game of players matching the same criteria. Put another way: only Stamkos, Crosby and Toews averaged more goals per game before turning 21 since the lockout.

Hall played in 61 games this past season. In the first 31 he scored 12 goals, which is roughly 0.39 per game, or right around his career average. In the last 30 games of the year Hall scored 15 goals (0.50 per game), including four goals in his last five games. Interestingly, Hall did not have a multi-goal game in the latter half of his season. The fact that his scoring was spread out makes it less likely that he was simply riding a hot stick for a game or two, a la Sam Gagner.

In the 61 games that Hall played in 2011-12 he scored 0.44 goals per game, which would make for roughly 36 goals over a full 82 game season. What Oilers fans have seen out of Hall so far is only a glimmer of his capabilities. His shooting percentage was somewhat high at 13%, but unlike his counterpart Jordan Eberle, Hall shoots enough to continue scoring at a high rate.

Over the course of a 126 game NHL career, Hall has fired the puck on net 393 times, for an average of 3.12 shots per game. That's 29th of all players since the lockout who appeared in at least 100 games. Of the 28 players ahead of Hall, three are no longer in the NHL (Yashin, Sundin, Shanahan). That bumps the Oilers' new #4 even further up the list. An average of 3.12 shots per game is around 256 shots in a full season. That's a total that has only been matched 159 times since 2005-06.

In terms of possession, Hall was in a class all his own in Edmonton. His on-ice shooting percentage was high at 9.13, but he was also 77th in the league at 2.07 points per 60 minutes.

There will undoubtedly be an adjustment period for Hall as he attempts to come back from major shoulder surgery, but if he can otherwise stay healthy in 2012-13 he should eventually take the NHL by storm. Hall appears ready to separate himself from the pack, especially now that he'll be receiving premium ice time on a better Oilers team than he's ever been a part of. Health will be a question mark until it isn't anymore, but Hall has the tools to be one of the deadliest scorers in the league.

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