ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - In his third trip to the IIHF World Championship, Taylor Hall plans to add to his collection of IIHF medals as Team Canada aims for back-to-back gold at this year's tournament in Russia.
"Expectations are always high for us," said Hall. "I think the skill level on our team is immense. We have a young team, but I think that's a good thing at this tournament. It makes you hungry and makes you want to come over and have a lot of success."
With his international experience, Hall is looked to as a veteran on this team despite only being 24.
"He's won a lot internationally and we're relying on him to provide leadership and lead by example and he's done a great job of that so far," said Team Canada Head Coach Bill Peters. "His game has really grown and he's matured as a young player. He came into the league very early and everyone's known about him for a long time, but the blocked shots, the speed he brings, the ability to pressure pucks on the forecheck. I know everyone likes to look at points, but he's a lot more than just a goal scorer. He's really rounded out into a complete player and he's a great asset in our room."
Three games into the tournament, Hall has three goals and an assist playing on a line with Corey Perry and Derick Brassard.
"I'm having fun with my linemates and I think we're starting to get some good chemistry and know each others' tendencies and where we're gonna be," said Hall.
"We're getting better shift by shift. We like to spread the ice out and get everyone involved. If we can get more pucks to the net, that will help out even more. That's one of the best things about playing in these tournaments, there's no shortage of good line mates to play with."
Said Brassard: "He's proven the past couple years in Edmonton what kind of player he is and I think his main asset is his speed. It's world-class and I think that's what separates him from the other players on the ice. He creates so much space for himself and he's good on the wall and he's got a great scoring touch too. He's a complete player. Corey and I are just going to try to get him the puck as much as we can in the neutral zone and allow him to use his speed as much as possible."
While Hall would much rather be playing for the Stanley Cup, he sees the opportunity to represent his country and earn a gold medal as a great consolation prize.
"We love the game and we come over here to win," he explained. "We're not in the playoffs and this is our chance to win something. We know we have a ton of skill, but that's only going to take you so far. It's about playing for each other and playing as a team and playing until the end. That's how you win."
But it's not just about playing hockey and winning, it's also about learning and growing as a hockey player and experiencing situations that will help you later on.
"It's about playing hockey under pressure," Hall continued. "The quarters and semis and the medal games are our version of Game 7 and you build character and find out what you're made of in those moments. I haven't been able to play in any NHL playoffs in my career yet, but it's opportunities like this that will help prepare me for situations like that. That's what you come over here for."
While he and his teammates still have things they'd like to work on - like their special teams and defensive play - over the next five games before the medal round, they're also taking the time to enjoy the culture and atmosphere in Russia.
"It's one of the fun things about coming over here and playing in these tournaments. You get exposed to different cultures and see how different things are than they might be at home," said Hall. "Like the fans. They bring a different atmosphere to the game. Doesn't matter what the score is, they're chanting all game long. It's more like a soccer environment. It's a lot of fun."
Hall's taking the opportunity to fully enjoy the experience because as much as he likes to wear the red and white maple leaf at the World Championship, he hopes to never have the opportunity to do so again.
"The goal at the start of the season is always to be in the playoffs and competing for the Stanley Cup - not to be on the World Championship team - but once you're here, you want to make it count and go home with a medal. No matter what, the goal is still to win."
Canada looks to maintain their perfect record against Germany on Thursday at 11am MT on TSN.