For the last two games, Taylor Hall has been playing on the top line. That is nothing new, since Hall has been on the Oilers' top line for the past month. The difference is he finds himself playing centre, a position he hasn't played since before junior, at least regularly.
Yet, with Ryan Whitney out long term and the Oilers poised for another lottery-pick finish, coach Tom Renney decided to try the first overall pick in between Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner. The Oilers lost the first game to Dallas, 3-2, with Hall playing 21 minutes and finishing with a 38 percent faceoff win percentage. Not that great, but give him a break, it was his first game.
Last night, Hall was centering Hemsky and Penner again, and helped lead the Oilers to a 5-2 victory, with two goals and an assist and won 40 percent of his faceoffs. The big thing, however, was the chemistry the trio showed, absolutely dominating every shift they played.
Now, this was only one game, but if it is a sign of things to come, the move to center could prove very beneficial to the Oilers' future.
For one thing, it gives them a legitimate first-line centre, something the Oilers have been begging for since the loss of Doug Weight. It also opens up room in the top six forwards for Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark, who have been on the third line when everyone is healthy. And finally, it gives the Oilers some flexibility when it comes to this year's draft.
The top players in this year's draft are Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson. With Hall on the wing, the Oilers' winger depth makes it almost impossible to take Landeskog, who has been called the Swedish Mike Richards. With Hall at center, however, they are able to take him with less worry (although they do still have lots of talented wingers).
Hall being at center also means that they don't have to worry about that first-line pivot, and can take a chance on defenseman Adam Larsson, who before this season was the top prospect and was considered to be the next Nicklas Lidstrom. Whether this will turn out to be true is anyone's guess, but the Oilers could sorely use a blue-chip defenseman, seeing as their depth at that position is not even close to their depth up front.
All in all, if Taylor Hall can make playing at center work for him and the Oilers, it would be huge for their future and allow the Oilers to build not only a competitive team, but a well-balanced contender.
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