Near the end of December, I argued that Cory Schneider deserved to be one of the NHL stars of the month, and certainly Devil of the Month. John agreed and named him that in his December month in review.
While those statements still ring true in my opinion, there is no denying that Taylor Hall absolutely deserves to be the New Jersey Devils’ representative to the All-Star Game this season. While I think you could argue that Schneider also deserves a spot over one of the two Metropolitan goaltenders that were selected (probably Braden Holtby would make the easier argument considering that Schneider currently has a better save percentage and plays on a team that is a sieve on defense), there can be zero debate that Hall rightfully is the team’s best player and true all-star.
Just check out some of Hall’s numbers as compared to the others that make up the top 5 scorers on the Devils (stats come from Natural Stat Trick):
In less games, Hall has double the amount of points as the next leading point getters in Hischier and Bratt. He also has considerably more shots, and is on pace for nearly 300 over the course of the regular season if he keeps it up. No one else is on pace to break 200. And it is not like his points are soft. If you wanted to make the argument that many of Butcher’s points are soft because 14 of his 23 assists are secondary assists, that could work. However, Hall is the leading goal scorer on the team, and of his 27 assists, 19 are first assists. That is simply excellent.
Furthermore, let’s check out a couple other stats as well that also help to showcase his dominance this season:
So in terms of generating attempts for and creating more goals for as opposed to against, Hall is one of the best on the team, if not the best. His Corsi and relative Corsi are 2nd best on the team behind only Will Butcher, and his GF% and relative GF% are 3rd behind only Butcher and Jimmy Hayes. Butcher, however, has had easier zone starts with 10% more of his zone starts beginning in the offensive zone.
Also, if you want to put Hall’s season into more perspective as compared to his previous years in the NHL, that only improves his look. The funny thing with Hall is that everyone expects him to be the team’s best player, so when that happens I feel like some people almost take it for granted. Or at least, it is not as big of a story as say Nico Hischier performing great as a 19-year old and Jesper Bratt coming out of nowhere to be a legitimate top line winger. However, there is zero denying that Hall is having a career year, even by his standards. If you look at his career numbers, the best year of his career before this was in 2013-14, when playing for Edmonton he produced 80 points in 75 games played. That equates to 1.067 points per game.
This season, at the exact midpoint of the year for New Jersey, Hall has 42 points in 39 games played. That point percentage is higher than what he had in ‘13-14. 42 points in 39 games is 1.077 points per game. Is that seriously more? Of course not. If he stays on pace, he will have 84 points in 78 games this season. Still, that is one heck of a season. Back in Edmonton that year, he spent most of his time with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, two number one overall picks and great talents. This year he also is spending most of his time with a #1 overall pick in Nico, but he also is bringing along Jesper Bratt too, and both Bratt and Hischier are super young. I think what he is doing this year is especially amazing.
Finally, I think simply just watching him really showcases what a great year he is having. His abilities with the puck on his stick are excellent. He weaves through and around people and manages to keep possession for New Jersey when most other skaters wouldn’t. Just look at this chart on zone entries created by CJ using data from Cory Sznajder. His controlled zone entries into the offensive zone are by far the most on the team. Per 60 minutes, using the sample size tracked, Hall manages to have the puck to enter the offensive zone around 31 times. Of those, almost 22 times he is creating a controlled zone entry, meaning he is either carrying the puck in himself or passing it to a teammate as they enter the zone. Only rarely is he simply dumping the puck in. Nico does very well with controlled zone entries as well, with around 16 per 60 minutes, but Hall gets almost 6 more per 60 minutes, a significant number.
In fact, using that chart to look at the entire league, Hall is 4th best in the entire NHL in terms of creating controlled zone entries per 60 minutes. Only Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz, and Connor McDavid are better, with McDavid at the top getting over 26 controlled entries per 60 mins. Again, this data does not cover the entire season so far, just a cross section. For Hall, it covers 12 games. However, that is not an insignificant sample size, and tells us that in general, Hall is exceptionally good with the puck on his stick, and uses his skill to generate loads of opportunities for New Jersey in the offensive zone.
In the end, there can be no doubt that Taylor Hall is the most deserving Devil to send to Tampa for All-Star weekend. More than just being the best player on the team night-in and night-out, he is having a career year and is really re-establishing himself as one of the best wingers in the NHL. Hall is the player that makes this team go, and should hopefully be the face of this team for a long time. If that is the case, and he keeps up this great play for years (a real possibility), the Devils will be very set at the top of the forward lines for quite some time.