Columnist: Taylor Hall is playing better than ever


Sure, Taylor Hall is getting some reps with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but will he be the same force he was for the Oilers when the NHL returns? The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples doesn’t think so – he believes Hall has been looking even better.

Staples raves about a great performance in which Hall reportedly produced 22 scoring chances against the San Antonio Rampage last Friday in particular:

I can’t recall ever seeing Hall skate so well in a game. The speed and aggression of his attack brought to mind great players from past eras. He was repeatedly able to get that extra foot or two close to the net before unleashing his heavy shot. It was bad luck that he didn’t get four or five points in the game.

That’s promising for Oilers fans, who’ve also been hearing great things about Justin Schultz’s and Jordan Eberle’s AHL exploits while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins excels with both the Barons and Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. (Oh yeah, and don’t forget Nail Yakupov.)

With all that in mind, Staples cannot help but think that the Oilers might make the playoffs if there’s a season.

Of course, all this is very good news for fans of the Oilers. With Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins all playing as well as they’ve ever played, a lot of folks are going to have to reconsider the notion that the Oilers aren’t going to be making the playoffs this year, should there be an NHL season. I’m certainly going to reconsider my take. I’ve predicted this group of players would fight for a playoff spot, but fail to make it in the end. I’m not so sure about that now.

What do you think about their chances?

Report: Sean Avery was arrested last week

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From the Southampton Press:

Sean Avery, the former National Hockey League player, was arrested by Southampton Village Police last week on two criminal charges.

According to authorities, Mr. Avery was arrested September 30 following a routine traffic stop on Jennings Avenue in the village at about 4:09 p.m. He was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief and two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, all misdemeanors.

Police said the criminal mischief charge involved an incident the day before, when Mr. Avery allegedly threw objects at passing vehicles.

As for those counts of possession, according to the newspaper, Avery was found to have “two prescription drugs, acetaminophen with oxycodone and roxicodone.”

He was released on $500 bail and ordered to appear in court at a later date.

Did we mention he’s supposed to get married this weekend?

H/t Gawker

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.