2010 NHL Entry Draft: Taylor Hall reflects on going #1

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for taylorhall.jpgYou won’t find many people in the hockey world who were surprised that Taylor Hall was the number one pick, but he was still shaken up when he heard the announcement.

“I was so shocked,” Hall said. “I was shaking in my seat. I got up to the podium, or whatever it is, and I was shaking so much I couldn’t even put my jersey on. I’m just so happy. My whole family’s so happy. It means a lot to us.”

It also means a lot to the future of the Edmonton Oilers. The team suffered from an absolutely atrocious 2009-10 season, one that I’ve often called “Murphy’s Law on ice.” They were – by far – the worst team in the NHL. High-level winger Ales Hemsky’s season ended abruptly due to injury while Nikolai Khabibulin’s nightmares only began on the ice (and in his surgeon’s room). Really – aside from the unexpectedly productive Dustin Penner – there weren’t many bright sides to look at in a dismal season for the struggling Canadian franchise.

Although the team has some nice prospects, much of the weight of a battered fan base will be placed on Hall’s shoulders. Does the young rookie-to-be feel burdened by the pressure?

“Not really. I thought about that. There are always expectations no matter what you do.” Hall said. “Obviously being a number one pick, I have to go in there and have a job to do, and I think I have the tools to do it. I know I have the confidence and the drive, so that’s what’s going to push me every day to be a better player and help the team out.”

Hall seems like he’s accustomed to the attention and spotlight of being a highly sought after prospect. It’s difficult to argue with his results up to this point, either, as he earned two straight tournament MVPs and two Memorial Cups in a row as part of the incredible Windsor Spitfires. (The Spitfires also featured No. 12 pick Cam Fowler, among other quality players.)

The 18-year-old future of the Oilers franchise must go a long way before he can justify all the hype. But on some level, Hall has already been on quite the journey.

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    Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

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    Arizona Senate President Steve Yarbrough does not expect a piece of legislation to pass that would give the Coyotes millions of dollars in public financing to build a new arena.

    That being said, Yarbrough thinks the Coyotes may be able to gain some “traction” if they offer to put in more of their own money.

    Under the current plan, the team has pledged $170 million of the arena’s total cost, which is estimated at almost $400 million. The difference would be made up by new sales taxes, plus $55 million from the still-to-be-determined host city.

    “If you are getting no traction the way the bill is designed, you could see if the hockey team paid a greater portion,” Yarbrough told the Arizona Republic yesterday. “I have been around this business long enough to know that if it’s not working in this format, you change the format to make it more attractive.”

    For their part, the Coyotes have not said whether they’d be willing to pay a greater portion of the project, only that they’ll continue to “work hard to find a viable arena solution in the greater Phoenix area, a market that both the club and the NHL believe is a strong hockey market capable of supporting a successful NHL franchise.”

    Related: Bettman says Coyotes “cannot and will not remain in Glendale”

    Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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    A little scene setting for you.

    New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

    As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

    Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

    The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

    (Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

    But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

    He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

    The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

    The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

    So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.

    For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

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    The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

    The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

    It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

    After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

    In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

    It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

    Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

    Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

    The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

    Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

    Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.