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All hail Hall

by Mike Benton / Edmonton Oilers
LOS ANGELES – Hollywood is world famous for production of visual drama, suspense and magic made specifically for the silver screen.

Thus, with the hockey world watching, including the hoards of Oilers faithful back at the 2010 Draft Party at Rexall Place, it’s only fitting that it came to an end on Friday, June 25, 2010 at Staples Center with the Edmonton Oilers at the controls.

At approximately 5:17 p.m. MT, Steve Tambellini announced at the stage – with an appropriate dramatic pause – that Taylor Hall would be ushered into the Oilers family as the historic, first overall pick of the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

“I was so shocked; I was shaking in my seat,” Hall said of his reaction with glazed eyes as he addressed the media after descending the draft stage. “I remember (Tambellini) saying ‘Windsor Spitfires’ and it’s all a blur from there.”

Like other NHL standouts have done in the past, it was Hall’s turn to be the first to be mauled by his family with hugs, descend from his seat, waltz to the platform and greet Oilers brass with his very own royal blue, orange and white coloured sweater and cap.  

The moment, perhaps signaling the renaissance of the Oilers to glory with a franchise player, finally solidifies in stone that a dynamic forward is here, perhaps for years to come.

Hall knows what he’s getting into.

He grew up playing shinny in his backyard of Calgary, home of the hated Flames. Well aware of the ongoing “Battle of Alberta” that is only intensifying, the Oilers now look to use rival homegrown talent to continue on its journey in ascension to the glory years that were produced by household names such as Gretzky, Messier and Smyth.

It holds a giant-sized amount of meaning for Hall, already looking forward to his first taste of it in an Oilers sweater.

“That is something that really shows my career has come full circle,” said Hall. “I grew up a Flames fan, I played in my backyard in Calgary, now I'm playing in the big rink in Edmonton.  There's been such a transformation, and it's a tremendous journey that I've been on.”

The pick also ends weeks of speculation circling the Oilers, as to whether they would draft Hall, eventual second overall pick Tyler Seguin, or send the pick away in a blockbuster trade.

I was so shocked; I was shaking in my seat. - Taylor Hall, on being selected first overall by the Oilers

Oilers President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe could only smile when he knew what he was getting in a player that tore up the Ontario Hockey League with his speed, skill and fearlessness that have many pundits uttering “Guy Lafleur” as a comparison.

The pick was kept top secret all the way until Tambellini hit the draft stage.

“Milk it,” said Lowe. “We like the drama and we wanted to keep it as quiet as we could. It should be exciting for the kids. We kept it from pretty much everybody, including our wives and kids. We’d like think that maybe it’s our time to shine.”

Hall brings a 106-point output with the Windsor Spitfires – tied in 2009-10 for the Ontario Hockey League lead with Seguin – and looks to join the last three picks selected first overall – Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares – to suit up for their NHL club immediately in the following year.

A natural winger, Hall joins the Oilers depth chart that may keep him in the same role with Ales Hemsky, and up-and-coming prospect Jordan Eberle (a former teammate with Canada at the World Junior Championships), while the likes of Shawn Horcoff and Sam Gagner patrol the middle.

Lowe didn’t waver in addressing his confidence in selecting Hall over the natural pivot in Seguin.

Taylor Hall dons the Oilers jersey for the first time after being selected first overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

“We had a lot of discussion about the centerman,” said Lowe. “I think we’re not trying to build a Stanley Cup overnight. If the guys we have don’t evolve into the #1 role, we’ll hope to draft or acquire one in the coming years.”

Whisked away in the evening to countless numbers of interviews, engagements and more around the Los Angeles area on Friday evening, including a stop in celebrity-rich Beverly Hills, Hall will look to take the “best player available in the draft” label and parlay it into the fourth player in as many years to suit up for his NHL team.

That class includes Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares. One of them has already won a Stanley Cup. Another has already toppled the 50-goal plateau. Yet, it means nothing for Hall, who is trying to stay grounded in the process as the summer months of preparation are about to hit him.

“I have to still make the team,” said Hall. “Nothing's for sure.  There are a lot of number 1’s that have gone back to junior. But I hope to be a dynamic offensive player, I like to play in the corners and knock it up, obviously get points because that's my role.”

That journey to a permanent role for Hall and his new employer begins in Hollywood, where it’s “lights, camera, action” for the newest Oiler phemom. 

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