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Pt. 2: Oilers' past six first-round picks

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton, AB - On Wednesday, Oilers Senior Director of Player Development Billy Moores and Director of Player Development Mike Sillinger commented on the progress of Alex Plante, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Today, Sillinger helps complete the package with a progress report on Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom.

CLICK HERE to read Part 1 of the series.


Taylor Hall collected 27 goals & 53 points in 61 games in 201-12 (Photo courtesy Getty Images).
Taylor Hall was selected with the Oilers' first-ever first overall draft pick. He's lived up to the billing so far, cashing 52 goals and 95 points in 126 career games to this point.

Hall is an elite, speedy sniper that will do anything and everything to win. Sometimes it's to his detriment, as injuries have shortened his first two NHL seasons -- one resulting from a bout with Columbus' Derek Dorsett, and the other after being crunched with a heavy along-the-boards hit by Colorado's Ryan Wilson.

He often puts himself in a vulnerable position, but it's also a quality that makes him unique -- and, ultimately, as offensively dangerous as he is.

"Injuries are a part of the game, it's going to happen," Sillinger said. "If I were a coach, I wouldn't want him to change his game. That's what makes Taylor Hall, Taylor Hall. He might need a little more recognition in having his head up, but that all comes with time. When you get to the NHL level, there's always someone that's bigger, faster and stronger.

"Taylor doesn't think he's invisible. He plays a hard game, he drives hard and plays that reckless abandon style. But he can't change it. He shouldn't and we don't want him to."

Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor said the decision to pick Hall over Tyler Seguin was made during the 2010 Memorial Cup. Brandon's Travis Hamonic leveled Hall with a vicious (but clean) hit that sent the sniper plunging head first into the end-boards.

Hall required a quick medical look-see before returning to action moments later, scoring a highlight-reel goal that spurred his team to victory.

That's what Hall is all about. And it's a quality rarely seen and shared by only the game's greatest stars.

"He's only 19 years old, but he plays like he's a 10-year NHL veteran," Sillinger said. "There's no question he's going to have those peaks and valleys along the way, but what makes a player elite and an all-star is having that drive. If you don't have it, you're just going to be average.

"I was lucky enough to have played with Steve Yzerman and you that work ethic every day. Whether he played one year or 18, he had that drive to compete, play, work out, and be the best he could be.

"That's Taylor Hall."


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will go up against Gabriel Landeskog & Adam Henrique for the Calder Trophy this Wednesday (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club).
Scoring 18 goals and 52 points in 62 games to open his NHL career, and on most nights being the Oilers' best and most dangerous player, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is everything you could possibly want in a No. 1 overall pick. Right?

"He certainly is," Sillinger laughed, marveling at RNH's smooth skill-set.

"The reason why he's so good is his vision and his ability to pass the puck -- he's got eyes in the back of his head. He knows how to dodge danger, too. You can talk to any player Ryan's played against this year and they'd tell you he's a tough guy to hit.

"Whether he's considered 'too small' or ‘not strong enough,' everyone I've talked to can't believe how heavy his stick is. He's going to develop his body, he's going to get bigger and stronger, but the reason he's already such a dominant force in the NHL is because of his hockey sense."

Nugent-Hopkins' sensational rookie campaign has earned him a Calder Trophy nomination, along with Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog and New Jersey's Adam Henrique. RNH would be a lock, if not for separate shoulder injuries that caused him to miss 20 games.

Still, he tied Landeskog in points -- but the Avalanche winger had a full, 82-game season to do it. Often praised for his physical edge and staunch two-way style, Landeskog is favoured to win if you ask the majority of league pundits.

But, as Sillinger explains, there's an intangible component to Nugent-Hopkins' game that should up his stock. It's what's going to make No. 93 an elite NHL superstar for years to come.

"He makes everyone better," he said. "But we're also talking about an 19-year-old kid here. The pressure that he's able to soak up -- everyone has high expectations and wondered what he was capable of, but he demands so much of himself and that's why he makes everybody around him better. The veterans see it, the young guys see it, the coaches see it -- it's expectations of yourself. The reason certain guys go first overall or are first round picks in general, is because they have the drive, demand and high expectations of their own performance."


Oscar Klefbom got a chance to play at Rexall Place on Dec. 23, 2011 during an exhibition match vs. Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship (Photo by Andy Devlin / Hockey Canada).
Oscar Klefbom hasn't yet had the opportunity to strut his stuff in orange and blue, but he's close to making that highly anticipated debut. The 18-year-old Swedish defenceman, chosen 19th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, will attend the Oilers' annual prospect development camp (June 25 to July 2 in Sherwood Park). 

The 6'3", 200-pound rearguard spent the 2011-12 season with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League, posting two goals, four penalty minutes and a -1 rating in limited ice time. Just recently, he was also inked to a three-year entry-level contract with the Oilers.

"Oscar is a big, strong, real good first-pass guy -- a real good defender, too," Sillinger said. "The importance of having and developing good, young, solid defence for our team is crucial. Playing defence in the National Hockey League is the toughest position to play. Oscar has a chance to be a big-time prospect with us. He had a pretty good year in the Swedish Elite League and I think playing with men has been a positive thing, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the North American style when he comes over."

As he's committed to the Elitserien next season, Klefbom won't attend main training camp in Stepmber. The Oilers would much rather have him develop on North American soil, but an increase in playing time and responsibility this year will prepare him well for the NHL when the time comes.

"I think it would be excellent to have him come over and get an understanding of the North American game," Sillinger said. "It's a lot different [here] than it is playing overseas. I think coming over and getting accustomed to the speed, how to pay the price and how to get to the net, would be a good thing.

"There's no question if I had my personal preference, I'd want Oscar playing over here in the North American game. But I understand why he's staying in Sweden and he should still get some great development opportunities."

For more on Klefbom's signing, as well as an exclusive phone interview with the man himself, CLICK HERE.

-- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
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