As fans of the Edmonton Oilers, we all remember June 24, 2010. It was the first of 3 straight NHL entry drafts where the Oilers selected 1st overall. The first of the 3 was a dynamic forward, fresh off back to back Memorial Cup & OHL championships as MVP of both tournaments, Taylor Hall. There was plenty of speculation lerading up to this draft as to whom the Oilers would select, or what most of the hockey world can relate to as “The Taylor vs Tyler Debate”. Myself personally was a lobbyist for Tyler Seguin (subsequent Bruins #2 pick overall), who at the time was a 6’1″ 182lb center playing for a very brutal Plymouth Whalers team. We all know the #1 center position is coveted by any winning NHL franchise & my thoughts at the time were if there isn’t that big of a tipping point between the 2 players, why not draft by need & take Seguin? Nevertheless, the Oilers selected Taylor Hall, whom many from the organizatin have suggested that because of his quick recovery from a devastating Travis Hamonic hit during the Memorial Cup.
It’s been 2yrs since then & the Oilers seem to have found that #1 center in 2011 1st overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but the bonafide #2 position is still in question with regards to eigmatic center & 2007 #6 pick overall, Sam Gagner. Gagner has shown flashes of brilliance, most notably an 8pt performance vs the Chicago Blackhawks, but unfortunately for Sam & the Oilers, it’s consistency issues with Gagner that have the Oilers hesitant to lock him up long term.
The current NHL lockout has created a sort of silver lining whereas newly acquired defenseman Justin Schultz can join forces with the likes of 2011-12 Oilers points leader Jordan Eberle & Calder Cup runner up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to continue developing their game while playing in the 2nd best league on the planet, the AHL. Hall, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery will be able to join the Oklahoma City Barons once cleared by doctors, as per TSN. Now, the common belief is to simply have Hall join RNH & Eberle on the top line while racking up a ton of points, makes sense but I’m a strong believer that the AHL should be used for developing players & get them ready for the grind of the NHL, so why not give Hall a go at center. The notion that by having Hall play center in OKC will slowdown his current development, is very small minded. Taylor is no longer a kid, but a young man who will undoubtedly get his points in the NHL at LW, but what about the center position? Taylor made mention, prior to the 2010 draft that he did indeed play center up until being drafted by the Spitfires who had plenty of depth at center so he was moved to the LW. Besides, it’s highly unlikely Hall will forget how to play LW. We’ve seen many a top center get moved to the wing for the better of the team, see any Men’s Canadian Olympic team as an example.
Having a RNH, Hall 1-2 punch at center would go a long way for the rebuilding of this franchise & there’s no better place to develop both of these players than where thay are right now. The positives to this experiment are straight forward, Hall gets his ice-time at center & if he can handle his responsibilities great. This will allow Gagner to move to the LW on 1 of the top 2 lines. If it doesn’t pan out, no big deal, Hall goes back to the LW with the Oilers while gaining valuable experience at the center position.
Todd Nelson, I hope you read this