The rookie seasons of Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have set the bar pretty high for players coming into the NHL.  Both Crosby and Ovechkin broke  the 100 point barrier in their first seasons in the NHL, raising expectations for first overall picks for years to come.  Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos, both recent first overall picks themselves, have put together resumes that aren’t too shabby either.

This is what has made it tough for players like Taylor Hall.  Every year we’re bombarded with stories of the next young player that will save a franchise.  In the weeks and months leading up to the draft, these young saviours are often the only bright light for struggling hockey teams.

Players like Crosby and Ovechkin and Kane have rejuvenated franchises.  They’ve been the primary building blocks that have helped drag their teams out of the basement of the league and into the upper echelon.  So now, each season begins with a struggling team looking to a teenager to lead them to the promise land.

That’s really not fair.

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are generational talents.  You simply do not find these players in every draft.  The fact that the two of them were drafted in back-to-back years has made us forget that.

That said, the NHL is a younger game now.  It’s faster.  The hits are harder.  Endurance and skill are more important now than they have been in years.  Once you add in the salary cap to this equation, it’s easy to see why teams place so much hope in their rookies.  These players make far less money on their rookie contracts than they will in the future, so their cost versus their potential output makes them an excellent value.  But is it fair to expect every rookie to be Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin?

Of course not.

And that brings us to Taylor Hall, the latest in the line of heavily-hyped players to go first overall.  Hall is a talented player and he will likely achieve great things in the NHL.  However, he doesn’t need to be rushed.  In five games with the Edmonton Oilers this year, he has only one assist.  Hall is not playing badly.  He doesn’t look out of place in the NHL.  But there is still speculation that he will be returned to OHL before he plays ten games in the big leagues.  This would mean the first year of his entry level contact (and his lower salary) would not be used up until next season.

The Oilers will likely not be all that competitive this season.  Hall will likely not set the world on fire and single-handedly bring the team to the playoffs.  That’s okay.  For Edmonton it might make sense to return Hall to  the juniors and have him mature and grow while the Oilers do the same.  He would then be able to play his rookie year in the NHL next season when he is bigger, stronger and more effective as a player.  Edmonton would be able to have Hall on their roster in four years at $900,000 rather than paying several million.

Will the move hurt Hall’s development?  It’s not likely.  In fact, keeping him in the NHL with the pressure of saving the franchise may hurt him more.  It has to be difficult for a teenager to deal with those expectations.

On that note, will Tyler Seguin remain with the Bruins?  He has one goal and two assists on the season (Leaf fans, Phil Kessel has five goals and two assists.)  It may pay off for the Bruins and for Seguin to return him to the juniors as well.

Not every rookie needs to immediately make a Crosby- or Ovechkin-like impact.  They don’t all need to be forced into the spotlight at a young age.  Sometimes these players need time to grow.

Comments (5)

  1. Since you brought up Stamkos do you remember his start in the NHL? Just ask Barry Melrose for his thoughts on the skinny kid that isn’t yet ready for the big show. Stamkos first 7 games he had 0 points. Through his first 17 games he had 2 points, but by the end of the season he had 23 goals and 23 assists. Don’t you think it’s a tad early to be sending Hall back to a junior team that he will do nothing to help him get better by dominating against kids?

    Pressure you say? There is in fact little pressure on him as he has came in with Eberle and Paajarvi and they are all learning the NHL together. With the team and fans aware and content with a full rebuild he has little expectations other than to work hard and smile. Nobody is expecting him to carry the Oilers back to the promise land this year or anytime soon. Hall is having fun, fitting in and getting better each game. He was dangerous last game and could have easily had 2-3 goals. As he gains more confidence each game the numbers will most likely follow.

  2. You haven’t been paying attention.

    -Steven Stamkos struggled in his first year also, especially early on; he finished very well though.
    -Tavares was good, but not great last year.
    -The Oilers have repeatedly said that they WON’T return Hall to the OHL. Case closed.
    -The majority of Oilers fans want him to stay.
    -Hall has played very well. He had a dominating game last night.
    -Hall has nothing left to learn at the OHL-level and your, “Will the move hurt Hall’s development? It’s not likely” argument is well, arguable. He belongs in the NHL.

  3. I don’t think you send him down. The development of the player has to be the priority.

    Is another year playing against kids going to be better for his development than in the NHL? I don’t think so, myself.

    Is he being overwhelmed at the NHL level? Despite having only 1 point, it doesn’t look like it to me.

    Is he too good for the OHL at this point? I would think so.

    Nobody is expecting him to take us to the cup this year, so I don’t know where this talk of pressure is coming from. And if it was there, it’s not like anyone will be expecting any less of him next year if he spends another year in junior.

    You can try to make a case based on his UFA age coming a year earlier by keeping him in the NHL, but if you turn around and sign him to a 12-15 year contrct like most of these kids are getting on their 2nd/3rd contracts, then it doesn’t really matter in the end.

  4. the oilers sent eberle back down once or twice and hes looking really solid more mature too, its never abad thing to send a player back down weather it be OHL or AHL, as for seguin i wouldnt send him down, with bergeron and david krejiec taking up the one two centers spots theres not a lot pf presure on him to put up big points and hes not in a candian market so the media isnt alll over him . to have him play on the third of fourth line with some second PP time for now isnt badd

  5. Eddy Eberle was a late 1st round pick, not the 1st overall pick. It’s rare in todays game that the first overall sees anytime in the minors. The way Hall is looking it doesn’t make sense for him to be sent down.

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