Fortune or Curse? The Story of Taylor Hall

Anytime a team is lucky enough to get their hands on a first overall pick in any draft, especially when the player is as talented and skilled as a guy like Taylor Hall. Hall was originally drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2010 NHL Draft, and broke into the league posting 42 points in just 65 games during his rookie campaign. However as a team, the Oilers had another abysmal season, finishing dead last in the NHL with only 62 points, and securing the first overall pick in the draft once again for 2011.

The Oilers ended up taking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. Hall and Nugent Hopkins complimented each other nicely in 2011, scoring 53 and 52 points, respectively. The same could not be said for the Oilers again, as they finished another season with the worst record in the NHL, at only 25 wins and 62 points. This had to be the breakthrough the Oilers were waiting for as for the third straight year they would be selecting first in the NHL draft. The team decided to select another forward from the pool, this time going with Nail Yakupov from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL.

The Oilers now had the three most recent number one overall picks on their roster, all of whom were forwards, and fans felt that they were destined to make a run at the playoffs for the first time in a few years. That was unfortunately not the case, as the team missed out on the playoffs, but at least didn’t finish with the worst record in the league. For fans that was “okay”, the team still had a lot of young talent and they needed time to develop and work on their chemistry. Taylor Hall took the league by storm the following year of 2013-2014, recording 27 goals which tied his career high, and 80 points which set his career high. The same could be said for Nugent Hopkins who showed improvement in his game as well, posting his career high point total with 56. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Yakupov as he showed some regression in his play, but to be fair it was only his sophomore season in the league. The Oilers missed the playoffs once again despite the terrific play from some of their top forwards. The team had three elite players on their roster, yet it still wasn’t working out. Despite Taylor Hall’s great play, was he a curse to the team? Well we’re only getting started.

The team missed out on the playoffs yet again in 2014-2015 for the ninth straight year, the longest streak in the NHL at the time. However, the team was in for a big success story while the playoffs were still underway. On May 17th, 2015 the NHL hosted the annual Draft Lottery on national television. Many viewers tuned in to watch who would be lucky enough to select arguably one of the most sought after prospects since Sidney Crosby, in the likes of Connor McDavid. The Oilers entered the night with the third best odds to win the draft, only behind Buffalo and Arizona. Shockingly for the fourth time in six years the Oilers won the lottery and secured the first pick in the draft. 

The team ended up selecting McDavid with the first overall pick and went into the season confident with their odds to reach the playoffs, but of course ended up missing them for a tenth straight year. It was time for major shake ups across the board for the team, as the current talent on the team was not getting it done, despite their high expectations. 

On June 29th, 2016 the hockey world watched in shock as the Oilers dealt star forward and former first overall pick Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Adam Larsson. Fans were very surprised by this deal as Hall was one of the strong points on the Oilers roster. On paper the trade did make sense as the Devils were gaining a forward who could help them boost their low offensive numbers and the Oilers gained a dependable top four defensemen who was much needed on their roster.

Hall, who was now headed into his 7th NHL season, still had yet to play in a postseason game and set out to change that with the New Jersey Devils. Unfortunately, the Devils like the Oilers teams of the past 6 years had a horrible season, finishing with the fifth worst record in the league. Hall must have been the one running the lottery as the Devils ended up winning the p prizeand securing the first overall pick in the draft. Including Hall’s draft in 2010, it was the fifth time in eight years that Hall had been involved with the first overall pick, a feat that defeated all odds. 

The Devils ended up selecting Nico Hischier with the first overall pick, a player who complemented Hall’s game very well. The Devils entered the 2017-2018 with low expectations but ended up blowing past them, finishing the season with 97 points and sneaking into the playoffs for the first time in Taylor Hall’s eight year career. Hall had one of the best seasons in recent NHL history, winning the Hart trophy behind 39 goals and 93 points, along with an extredonairy 26 game point streak that stretched on for a lengthy part of the season. The Devil’s did end up getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 5 games, but it was a step in the right direction for Hall and the Devils. 

However, that step forward only lasted for a very short time as the Devils finished the season last in the Metropolitan division with only 72 points, which placed them third to last in the entire league. The team dealt with a ton of injuries during the season, one of which included Hall who ended the season early after only appearing in 33 games. Another Taylor Hall lead team entered the lottery with high odds to win yet again, but there was no way they would actually be successful again, right? Somehow, I was wrong as the Devils ended up winning the draft lottery yet again for the second time in three years and Taylor Hall was involved yet again for the sixth time in just ten years. A coincidence? The world only knows. 

The Devils selected another highly coveted prospect in Jack Hughes, with the first overall pick and many insiders projected that he would be playing on the first line along with Taylor Hall, even though he was only 18 years old at the time. The duo didn’t exactly work out as the Devils struggled throughout the first part of the season. Rumors began to swirl around the league that Hall may be on the trade block, as day by day the Devils seemed to slip further and further out of the race and Hall had a contract that was set to expire by the end of the season. After only 30 games with the Devils in 2019, Hall was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes for a plethora of prospects and draft picks.

Arizona found themselves in a nice situation as they were competing to make the playoffs for the first time in many years when they traded for Hall. However, up until February 4th of this year Hall’s Coyotes had a losing record during the games that he played in (7-9-3). Things haven’t improved since that point, as up until the pause in the season, Arizona found themselves sitting four points out of a playoff spot. How can such an elite talent like Taylor Hall bring a squad that looked like a sure thing playoff team to a team looking from the outside in? Hall does have 27 points in 35 games for the team, so it’s not from a lack of offensive production. It begs a lot of questions about his work behind the scenes, especially when he’s been surrounded by great talent for most of his career, but has only made the playoffs once, not to mention it was only by one point! Over half the teams in the NHL end up getting into the playoffs, so even if Hall’s team wasn’t great they would still have a good statistical shot of getting into the tournament. 

So is Taylor Hall a curse for missing the playoffs with almost every team he’s been on, or is he a fortune for having a hand in almost every number one overall pick in recent history? It’s certainly an interesting topic to look at and I’m very interested to see what team picks up the bill for his big new contract that awaits him in the off-season. (Picture Credit: Las Vegas Review- Journal, The Hockey Writers, The Hockey News, NHL.com) 

Andrew Gardner UNH '23

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