|Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.
- Taylor Hall's third National Hockey League season will be his most productive one yet on a per-game basis.
The sniper's goal Sunday vs. Anaheim was his 15th of the season and 45th point. As a result, the 21-year-old has guaranteed a point-per-game pace by season's end. He's the first Oiler to achieve that since Doug Weight did it in 2000-01, when No. 39 collected 90 points in 82 games.
Prorated over a full season, Hall would be on pace to match Weight's total in the same number of games played.
Cam Fowler, a former teammate of his with the OHL's Windsor Spitfires (now a smooth-skating offensive defenceman with the visiting Anaheim Ducks), isn't at all surprised that Hall has elevated himself to the status of a superstar.
"I always knew he had that ability to transition to the NHL and become that kind of player," said Fowler. "With the way he works day in and day out, game after game, it isn't a surprise. His work ethic is top notch and unmatched by anyone else I've ever met or played with. When you combine that with the skill and speed he has, he's almost impossible to defend.
"He's a force to be reckoned with out there."
In 2009-10, Fowler collected eight goals and 40 points in 55 games with Windsor. He added another 14 points in the post-season as the Spitfires won their second consecutive Memorial Cup championship.
Hall was named as the Most Valuable Player in both years, becoming the first player in history to win the award twice.
"You've got to try and take away his time and space as much as you can," said Fowler, who was a spectator to Hall's dominance on the national stage. "He got nine points in four games that year we won, so there's only so much you can do.
"For me, it's about trying get my gap up so he doesn't have time to make plays out there. That's how you stop a player of his ability -- or try to, anyway."
Fowler was drafted by the Ducks 12th overall in 2010, 11 spots after Hall's No. 1 overall selection.
Since then, Hall has established himself on the ice as one of the NHL's premier weapons (he currently sits 15th in League scoring and is among the likes of Claude Giroux and John Tavares) and as a leader in the dressing room.
At the beginning of the season, he was named as an alternate captain.
"He didn't wear a letter in Windsor, but he was always a leader," said Fowler. "He was a vocal presence in the dressing room, too, which everyone respected a lot. He demanded a lot out of everyone, but even more from himself. You can go out there and give it 110 percent, which is what he did every single day. Everyone in our dressing room envied that and that's why he is where he is today."
Hall and Fowler are still buddies to this day, but their busy schedules make it difficult to remain as close as they once were.
"I didn't get a chance to see him after the game last night, but I did give him a little nod out on the ice."
"And he totally game-faced you," interjected fellow Ducks defenceman Ben Lovejoy, who could barely contain his laughter.
"I always wish the best for him and say a quick hello whenever I get a chance."
It will be all business again tonight as Ducks look to make it two straight against the Oilers and secure the Pacific Division title over the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.
"It's only one game, but it's a good stepping stone for us and something we can build off of," said Fowler, who scored his first goal of the season in Sunday's victory. "It's nice to control our own fate and have a chance to lock up that second seed and win the division -- it would be huge for us. We need to take advantage of that."
Meanwhile, the Oilers have little else to play for but pride at this point. Last night's loss mathematically eliminated the orange and blue from post-season contention.
"Teams like that are dangerous," said Fowler. "They can come out and play loose, carefree hockey and have fun while they're doing it. I've been in that situation, too, where we're playing games at the end of the year that won't mean a whole lot, but it allows you to stay loose and try some things you wouldn't normally do."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick