Coach Dallas Eakins is hell bent on trying Taylor Hall in the center position. Of course, Hall played center in junior, so the position is not new to him. On many occasions, though, Hall has indicated his preference for the left wing. The young pro is willing to try it out, however, and if he can excel in the role, it could open up some options for the Edmonton Oilers.
As long as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is out with his shoulder injury, we should expect Hall to center the top line, barring any mighty struggles. The question is: if Hall is explosive at center, do we keep him there? Imagine then, that RNH centers the second line. That could push Gagner to the third line and Gordon to the fourth. It would make the team’s center depth immediately better, although, probably the most expensive center core in the league with Gordon making $3 million a year.
Regardless, initial success in the regular season from Hall as a center could be interesting. It immediately makes the four lines all stronger units. In his first pre season affair of the new season, Hall was 65% in the face-off circle. Only one game, yes, but my goodness–imagine the possession numbers of the first line! Our best players starting with puck 2/3 of the time when Hall is taking draws? Should the youngster sustain such numbers, he may fall into the role simply because he is positionally versatile, and that reality would mean having the team’s best player explosive on the wing and as the plow through the field at center.
Sadly, the above scenario is more a fantasy than what will likely occur. Hall will likely have further adjustments in the regular reason when he begins to play against the top lines of other teams with size and speed (see: Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks—wait, actually, um, pretty much every other team but us and Tampa Bay). But, ah, let’s dream shall we? Check out these possible lines below:
Naturally, we have yet to proceed through training camp fully. Seventeen players have already been cut, none of whom were expected to make the leap. But if the Oilers were to ice the above offensive lines, I would be fairly confident in a successful season. Really, all of this lies in the hands of the players. If they dedicate themselves to top level hockey, train hard and play with determination this team can have success.
Will it find success with Taylor Hall down the middle? Who knows? It would have made sense to play Hall at center in Oklahoma during the lockout to see what he could do with it. Time will tell. And it’s time for NHL hockey. We’ll see how Dr. Eakins little experiment turns out.