GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- Taylor Hall is hoping to become the first player since 2009 to win the Hart Trophy in consecutive seasons, and his New Jersey Devils teammates are optimistic he can do it.
The forward didn't have a point in the Devils' season opener, a 5-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers in the 2018 NHL Global Series Challenge at Scandinavium on Saturday. He did lead New Jersey with four shots in 18:56 of ice time, and linemate Kyle Palmieri scored twice.
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Last season Hall became the first Devils player to win the Hart and helped New Jersey qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six seasons. He had 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists), 41 more than any teammate and the largest such gap in the NHL last season. He also had a 26-game point streak from Jan. 2-March 6, the longest in the NHL since Patrick Kane had a 26-game streak in 2015-16. Hall had 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists) during his streak, which included 11 multipoint games.
"Taylor got in a groove last year, he got into a rhythm as an offensive player, and [it's a] credit to him," said Oilers center Connor McDavid, Hall's former Edmonton teammate, who won the Hart as the NHL's most valuable player in 2016-17. "He kind of propelled that team."
Will he be able to replicate the best of his eight NHL seasons and become the first back-to-back Hart winner since Alex Ovechkin (2007-08, 2008-09)? Devils players and coach John Hynes offered insight into what makes Hall so special and what awaits him this season.
John Hynes, coach
"He's an extremely motivated player. He's come back to training camp with the right mindset, to improve on what he accomplished last year. He's very driven in his own game, and has great practice habits. We don't expect anything different from him, but we'd like for him to continue to grow his game, his leadership skill. When you become a player of his status, the next level of that is continuing to grow your game on the ice. But there's also something that comes along with that like leadership and becoming a driving force on a team. Those are areas we'll try to work on with him."
Kyle Palmieri, F
"Coming off a Hart Trophy season, he's going to have some big expectations for himself. As his teammate and sometimes his linemate, just doing what he does -- he's a dynamic player and he creates so much, not only for himself but for the guys who are on the ice with him. That's one of the things going into this year, I know he's feeling good and is healthy right now. That's one thing last year, a couple things nagged him as the year went on. Most guys go through it, but to perform like he did night in and night out with some nagging injuries, being fully healthy now, he wants to keep building off that."
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Nico Hischier, C
"He wants to make the best out of every shift and does something on every shift. It doesn't have to always be offensively, but just little things that are good for the team. It gets the momentum back. I remember in one game he had this play where he had this big hit on (New York Rangers forward Mats) Zuccarello, and those little things make a difference in a game. He just wants to go out there, play his best hockey and help the team win, so it's fun to play with him."
Jesper Bratt, F
"Coming in as a rookie and playing with an MVP, it's was awesome, and you see him every day in the locker room and how he prepares himself before practices and games, taking care of his body, so it was awesome for me to be around him for a whole year and see everything he does in practice and in games and what it takes to be a professional. I think what was most impressive about him was that he could create offensive plays from the whole ice. You can give him the puck in the defensive zone and he does unreal things to get a scoring chance from no angle. You can always trust him on the ice and he works really hard."
Andy Greene, D
"I think he has a great chance to repeat as NHL MVP. I think he's motivated, he's hungry. I think, like our team, he wants to prove it wasn't a fluke last year and wants to go out there and be an even better player. If you look at the way he just looks, walking by him, you can tell he's in great shape and ready. He's always had to draw attention and always drew the tougher assignments, whether those assignments came against forwards or a shutdown pair. He's always done a good job against them. Now it's a matter of figuring out how do we get balance into our lineup, how do the next two lines capitalize on those other assignments when Taylor seems to get the tougher ones."
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John Quenneville, F
"He set the bar high and I think everyone on our team has a chance to learn from him; he's one of the best. He's got an extreme level of skill and speed and he does it all at the same time. He's so dynamic, he makes plays and capitalizes on opportunities. He makes stuff happen all the time he's on the ice at top speed. He creates chances and makes his teammates better, and that's what he's done since ever since he's entered the League (in 2010-11). He's done that his whole hockey career."