Hall was a rare player that elevated an entire organization. Fans in Windsor, a metro population of 350,000 in southern Ontario, not far from Detroit, filled a new 6,500-seat arena to see a talented team led by Hall, who scored 356 points in three seasons.
“Even though they're only teenagers, junior hockey here is huge like NCAA football in the U.S.,” Rychel said. “There are 60 (junior) teams in the U.S. and Canada. He helped put our franchise on the map. Going first overall was phenomenal for this franchise.”
And Windsor was good for Hall, who maintains relationships with former Spitfire teammates, some that play in the AHL.
“That's where I came into my own as a hockey player and a person,” Taylor Hall said. “My first year in juniors probably was the first time I realized I could be a professional hockey player at some capacity if I worked hard and stayed out of trouble. I owe a lot to them.”
Hall, who turned 21 in November, missed the final month of Edmonton's season with a shoulder injury that required surgery last spring. It delayed his Barons debut a couple of weeks. Last year's injury also gives Hall incentive to finish this season strong.
“He's been through the long grind of a playoff run at Windsor but would like to see what that's like at the pro level,” Steve Hall said. “Whether that's Oklahoma City or Edmonton, we don't know. That will be the goal in Edmonton. This is kind of like a dry run for these guys.”
Edmonton hasn't made the layoffs in seven years. But building around players such as Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz and Hall, the Oilers are viewed as one of the NHL's young teams on the rise.
During his highly acclaimed junior career that included successful stints for Team Canada on the international stage, Hall played his best hockey in the playoffs.
The two years Hall was named post-season MVP, he scored an astonishing 76 points in 44 playoff games.
“I've always felt I got better as the season wore on and was a good player in the playoffs,” Hall said. “I don't know if it's from my conditioning, but the goal always is to improve over the course of a season.
“I'm still young. I still have a lot to work on. But I owe a lot to my dad. When you're young that's where you develop your skills and love for the game. He helped make it fun. All the setups, like that outdoor rink, were pretty cool.”
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