Menu
Home

Hockey

Edmonton takes Taylor Hall with first pick

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although the Edmonton Oilers agonized over their decision until a few hours before the NHL draft, they eventually decided Taylor Hall was just a bit more irresistible than Tyler Seguin.

Both 18-year-old prospects realize this debate could go on for two more decades.

The Oilers selected Hall with the No. 1 pick Friday night, going with the Windsor Spitfires star's toughness and potential over the smooth skating and skill of Seguin, his fellow Ontario Hockey League forward.

The league-worst Oilers had the toughest call at the top of a draft in several years, but general manager Steve Tambellini couldn't resist Hall's potential. He believes Hall has the physical gifts and work ethic to be a mainstay in the middle for a club that has lacked an elite front-line talent.

"He's such an imposing young man," Tambellini said. "I don't think I've ever met a more focused, competitive athlete. He was the best player on a good team for a long time."

The first round was completed at Staples Center on Friday, with the final six rounds set for Saturday. The assembled executives pulled off relatively few trades, with defensemen Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis the only significant names changing places.

Many NHL scouts and executives couldn't choose a favorite between Hall, a physical left wing who scored 106 points in 57 games for Windsor, and Seguin, the league MVP for the Plymouth Whalers. Hall's Spitfires knocked Seguin out of the playoffs on the way to their second straight Memorial Cup title.

Hall wasn't worried about the Oilers' recent struggles, instead focusing on their heritage in the City of Champions.

"They're such a great franchise with so much history behind them," Hall said after pulling on his blue-and-orange jersey. "With the five (Stanley) Cups they won, it will mean a lot to me to join their organization and hopefully bring another one up there."

The Boston Bruins eagerly grabbed Seguin moments later with the No. 2 pick. Hall and Seguin both intend to be on NHL rosters this fall, and they realize their careers are likely to run on parallel tracks for many years.

"I don't think it matters who goes first overall," Seguin said. "I'm just excited to be here and to be going to Boston. I'm sure the rivalry will continue if we're both in the NHL next year, but we both respect each other. We're good buddies, and that isn't going to change."

Hall and Seguin spent much of the past three days hanging out together at various tours and events — everything from batting practice at Angel Stadium to a red-carpet Hollywood movie premiere — in the NHL draft's first trip to Los Angeles.

Hall is the fourth straight OHL player chosen No. 1, following Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares. Those three picks are working out quite well — and Hall believes he can join the Oilers' young core to return some respectability to the team.

"I feel honored with all the players that have gone No. 1," Hall said. "When I came into this year, that was one of my goals, was to go No. 1. In saying that, there's still a lot of work to do out here."

While the Los Angeles Kings hosted the draft, the Anaheim Ducks made bigger splashes. Anaheim picked defenseman Cam Fowler with the 12th pick, grabbing a top prospect expected to go much higher, and then drew a huge cheer from the crowd when they picked Long Beach native Emerson Etem with the 29th pick.

Earlier, Florida selected Kingston defenseman Erik Gudbranson with the third pick.

"I did my research on their team," said Gudbranson, a physical defenseman with a big shot. "(With) Dmitry Kulikov there, I feel like I could be a good complement to him on the back end. The real attraction was having (new Panthers general manager) Dale Tallon there, seeing what he did with the Chicago Blackhawks and winning the Stanley Cup and building that team from scratch."

Columbus grabbed WHL center Ryan Johansen with the fourth pick. Forward Nino Niederreiter, Johansen's teammate in Portland, became the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history when he went to the Islanders with the fifth pick. The Islanders already have defenseman Mark Streit, the only NHL All-Star from Switzerland.

"I'm trying to be a scorer one day," said Niederreiter, who believes he can make the Islanders roster this fall. "At the moment, I think I'm a two-way player with some skills and also defensively. At the end, I just want to be a goal-scorer."

Forward Brett Connolly went sixth to Tampa Bay, which wasn't worried by his recent injury problems. Carolina pulled a mild surprise at No. 7, grabbing Kitchener center Jeff Skinner, a former figure skater.

Atlanta took Russian forward Alex Burmistrov with the eighth pick, and Minnesota grabbed Finland's Mikael Granlund at No. 9. The New York Rangers used the 10th pick on tough Moose Jaw defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who was rated much lower than still-available defensemen Fowler and Brandon Gormley by most scouting services.

Dallas chose the draft's first goalie with the 11th pick, selecting Jack Campbell from the U.S. national development team.

Fowler was projected as a top-five talent by most observers, yet he fell all the way to No. 12, where the Ducks eagerly added him to a roster badly in need of talented defensemen. Fowler accepted his new jersey from Scott Niedermayer, the recently retired defensive star and Fowler's model for his game.

"It's hard when you're projected as a top pick and you slide, but it's something to use as motivation," Fowler said. "Who knows why it happened? I'm just glad I landed where I did."