It was a year of firsts for Taylor Hall
last season -- first NHL season, first point, first goal, first hat trick, first fight, first Gordie Howe
hat trick and first season-ending injury. Unfortunately for Hall, they happened in that order.
"There were a lot of firsts this year and, for the most part, it was great," Hall told NHL.com.
However, there was one night last season Hall never will forget.
It was the night he engaged in his first career fight, and consequently earned his first serious hockey injury.
2011-12 SEASON PREVIEW
Morrow only concerned with team
David Kalan - NHL.com Staff Writer
is close to accomplishing a milestone in his career, but he didn't even know about it. Getting the Stars back to the playoffs is all that's on his mind. READ MORE ›
In his scrap with Columbus' Derek Dorsett
on March 3, 2011, Hall's left leg twisted awkwardly as he was pulled down to the ice. Although the bout completed Hall's first Gordie Howe
hat trick, the fall resulted in a high ankle sprain that ended Hall's season.
As the first pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, it was a disappointing ending to what had been a promising rookie season. He adjusted to the level of play in the NHL and had 22 goals and 20 assists in 65 games. He had eight power-play goals and four game-winning goals.
"That was a tough break," Hall said. "I'd never been hurt before in my career. Realizing that my rookie season was over and that I just had to lay around for the rest of the season was tough to hear."
Having his first NHL season cut short by 17 games left the 6-foot-1, 194-pound left wing wondering what could have been. He quickly decided to make the most of the situation.
"The injury might have been a little bit of a blessing," Hall said. "I've had a lot of time off from hockey and I feel that hunger to get back to the game. It's probably not the last time that I'm going to be hurt in my career, so it's about how you come back from that, and I'm looking forward to doing that."
Perhaps Hall's misfortune is the best thing that could have happened to him and to the Oilers. He spent the last three months rehabilitating the injury and is happy with how it feels. He also spent the last three months contemplating last season, and now he's eager to make up for lost time.
He's especially excited to get the season underway because of the growth and development of the Oilers' relatively young squad. Edmonton boasted one of the youngest teams in the NHL last season, including two other rookies -- Jordan Eberle
, 21, and Magnus Paajarvi
, 20. If anything, last season was a chance for those younger players to test the waters in the NHL and now they are ready to turn some heads.
"It's time to start turning our young potential into some good talent," Hall said. "Overall, our young guys being more used to the League is going to be a huge advantage for us."
Another facet of having a younger squad is all of the fanfare the players have to adjust to. Hall took all of it in stride, though, as the 19-year-old made his way in the NHL and in hockey-obsessed Edmonton.
"My 'Welcome to the NHL' moment was an exhibition game when I lined up against Jarome Iginla
," he said. "I grew up in Calgary and I grew up watching him as a kid, and for me to line up against him was kind of where I realized I made the NHL."
"The injury might have been a little bit of a blessing. I've had a lot of time off from hockey and I feel that hunger to get back to the game. It's probably not the last time that I'm going to be hurt in my career, so it's about how you come back from that, and I'm looking forward to doing that." -- Taylor Hall
With a bit of experience under their belts, Hall fully expects the Oilers to follow in the steps of the Chicago Blackhawks
and the Pittsburgh Penguins
– organizations that relied heavily on recently drafted talent in their respective Stanley Cup championships in 2009 and 2010.
"The Blackhawks and Penguins are good examples of what can happen when you rebuild properly and you get some good, young talent in there," Hall said. "We are building for something special. This year is where we take off from that and do some damage in the NHL."
In order to do so, the Oilers will have to make some serious improvements, starting with special teams. The Oilers' 14.5-percent success rate on the power play last season was 27th in the League, and their 77.0-percent penalty-killing unit was 29th.
Hall is confident in the Oilers' ability to move out of the Western Conference's cellar, a place they've finished the past two seasons.
"Overall we are going to be a tough team to play against," Hall said. "We all want to get the season going and prove the pundits wrong."