Now this is going to come as a shock to you, but right up until the 2010 NHL Entry Draft began, I was still sitting in the Tyler Seguin camp.
In regard to Taylor Hall, I was thinking, "He might be the better player now, but Seguin might be the better choice for the future."
Watching the draft from my couch, I was thinking I would be content with either choice, but deep down I wanted Seguin more.
It's hardly been a week, but upon reflection I've changed my mind again.
When the Edmonton Oilers drafted Hall, they made the right choice.
Don't get me wrong, Seguin is a good player now and will be a superstar in the NHL some day.
But he's no Hall.
I was contemplating some of the criticisms of Hall that have been brought up:
- Strong team in Windsor
- Tendency to be crushed in high scoring areas
- Not a good defensive player
If you think about it, two of those are not entirely true and one of them is downright false. Let's start with the third point.
Hall is actually underrated for his defensive abilities: He blocks shots and plays on the penalty kill as well as the power play. When he's caught, Hall rushes back and tries to get the puck back.
Trying to maintain puck possession in both offensive and defensive situations is a good attitude to have, and might be what leads to his criticism in the second point. Hall, whether driving the net, going into the corner, or making a deke around a defender, has sometimes been caught with his head down and hit.
Now consider another familiar player who likes to carry the puck and sometimes gets hit when venturing into the danger areas.
Let's say, Ales Hemsky.
Many times, whether he was being hit by Robyn Regehr, Jordin Tootoo, or Derek Boogaard, Hemsky has always shown the spunk to bounce back and perform despite being decked by much larger players. Many other such descriptions of Hemsky's ability to take a hit to make a play could be produced.
Such descriptions, for a playmaker like Hemsky, are even more befitting a power forward in the mold of Hall. Sure some people may bring up Eric Lindros, but I don't think that Hall has been as heralded as Lindros coming into the league.
Lindros coming out of junior was a pretty big forward coming into the NHL. Hall is not physically imposing but on top of his run-and-gun style of play he also has the speed and skill to back it up. Hall has been hit by bigger players his whole career. Not NHL sized players, mind you (with the exception of Travis Hamonic), but players the same size or bigger.
Both Hall and Lindros were dominant in their respective leagues but it was Lindros who, as a particularly dominant physical player in junior, ended up being injured in the NHL by players much smaller than he.
Hall, on the other hand, also takes big hits and puts himself in some vulnerable positions. But he knows how to deal with it, since his whole career has been a similar story. Plus, it doesn't mean he can't adapt to the NHL.
Lastly, a quick look at the Windsor team shows that they did indeed have one of the better teams in the OHL. But this argument is invalid in the following sense.
Consider that the Kitchener Rangers, Barrie Colts, and London Knights also had some very strong teams.
Strong teams usually mean that they have good players who know their role.
What set Windsor apart from the other strong teams?
They not only had strong players.
They had great players.
Among those great players, they had one player who was simply the best player in junior hockey at the time: Taylor Hall.
Now understandably Seguin was a great player on a poor team. But if he had that many points on a team with little to no supporting cast, why are AJ Jenks and Phil McRae, the next two Whalers in the scoring ranks, are not even in the top 50 in the league?
If Seguin was racking up all these points, who was on his line the whole time?
Hall had Adam Henrique, Greg Nemisz, Justin Shugg, and Eric Wellwood, all in the top 50, and the only regular on his line was Henrique and sometimes Shugg. These are all players with whom Hall had to share his ice time.
If Seguin had regular linemates it might be expected for them to be in a similar role perhaps playing on the same line with similar numbers.
Take for example, Sidney Crosby.
In 2004-05, Crosby's teammates Dany Roussin and Marc-Antoine Pouliot were also in the top three for QMJHL scoring that year.
Does being in the top three doesn't necessarily mean they will become dominant at the NHL, but it doesn't exclude that possibility. As we know now, Roussin and Pouliot are not making much headway into the NHL while teammate Crosby is the face of the new NHL along with Alexander Ovechkin and others.
What it does probably mean is that the other two benefited heavily from Crosby's presence.
How come McRae and Jenks have not benefited from Seguin's presence? Perhaps they didn't play on his line? But if they didn't, then who did?
(If you're a Whaler's fan or hockey scout, perhaps you can fill us in on this mystery.)
Perhaps Seguin scored a bunch of unassisted goals (nope, doesn't seem like it).
Perhaps Seguin got much more ice time than everyone else?
Seguin has shown to be a great individual player.
Whatever the case, Hall appears to play on better teams not because he makes those teams better. It is not, it appears, a chicken-and-egg argument.
Crosby has made his teams and teammates better. Rimouski, Pittsburgh, Roussin, and Pouliot all benefited.
Evidently, Hall has a similar affect.
Hopefully, now that he's done with the Spitfires in Windsor, Hall can spearhead an Oilers' rebuild too.
Maybe, just maybe, that means Hall will one day add some Conn Smyth Trophies to a list that includes two Memorial Cup MVP Awards.
One can dream. Taylor Hall has given Oilers' fans a reason to care again.
And that dream is the reason an Oiler fan can leave Camp Seguin and be happy in Camp Hall.
I mean, how could I possibly be upset?
We got our guy.
Photo courtesy of The Hockey News.