At the Rock and in the recap, in response to this play, I proclaimed that Taylor Hall is a superstar. Today, I intend to showcase how impressive Taylor Hall has been this season for the team that we all love.
Taylor Hall, So Far This Season
Hall has been on fire as of late. He currently has a seven-game point streak where upon he has contributed five goals and seven assists. During that same streak, Hall put up 34 shots including three games where he had at least seven shots on net. Hall has been on the scoresheet in every game in 2018 so far for the Devils. It is an impressive array of production. It is also something that’s not out of nowhere as Hall has been far and away the team’s top scorer.
Sure, Brian Gibbons was the goal scoring leader for the first two months or so, but Hall has passed him and has been the main point producer throughout 2017-18. Prior to tonight’s game, Hall has 17 goals, 31 assists, and 156 shots. His 48 points is not just leading the Devils, but he’s got 18 more points than #2 on the list: his common right winger, Jesper Bratt. His 31 assists are six more than second place on the team, Will Butcher (25); and the second leading forward in assists, his common center, Nico Hischier (20). Hall’s 156 shots gives him a 52-shot lead over Hischier, the only other Devil to have over 100 shots on net as of this writing. Hall isn’t just the team’s leader in production. He’s far and away the team’s top offensive player. Keep in mind that Hall has missed two games and he apparently may be nursing a minor injury in recent days (hat-tip to r/devils). Despite this, Hall is close to matching his 2016-17 point total of 53 points and he could do it in under 53 games. That’s impressive.
Let’s go to Natural Stat Trick and dig a little deeper. In 5-on-5 scoring, Hall is clearly the top producer as well. While it is a little closer, Hall is the only Devil with more than ten 5-on-5 goals with 11. He leads the team with 27 points and 111 shots in 5-on-5 play. He’s also the team’s leader in individual shooting attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances. If that’s not enough, he has a positive penalty differential of +4 too (6 taken, 10 drawn). Hischier does match Hall in primary assists and he’s not too far behind in 5-on-5 points. Of course, who is Hischier’s most common 5-on-5 teammate? Taylor Hall.
With all of these points, who is Hall contributing with? Per Natural Stat Trick, he’s assisted nine different Devils in 5-on-5 play - notably five of Hischier’s goals and three of Bratt’s goals. He’s also been assisted by five different Devils: Hischier, Bratt, Andy Greene, Miles Wood, and John Moore. If we include the power play - something else that Hall leads on the team in with 17 power play points - Hall assisted two additional players: three of Palmieri’s PPGs and four of Brian Boyle’s PPGs. Hall has helped out many of his teammates; it’s more than just the two rookies benefiting from Hall’s play.
The team as a whole has benefited. Hall’s Corsi For% (percentage of shot attempts for the Devils while the player is on the ice out of all shooting attempts) in 5-on-5 play is 51.13%. For a team whose total CF% is only 48.2% (and this is an improvement from where they were in, say, November), the team’s top forward being above 50% in CF% is quite good. In fact, the only forward with a better CF% than Hall is Kyle Palmieri, who has not played nearly as much as Hall and likely does not draw the difficult match-ups like Hall does on most nights. For those interested in shots on net only or even just goals, Hall is a boss in 5-on-5 play. His SF% leads all Devils forwards at 52.53% and his GF% is 55.22, third only to the more limited-in-use Stefan Noesen and Jimmy Hayes. Given that Hall plays quite a lot and draws a lot of attention from the other team’s best players, that Hall has these values is proof of his stellar play for the Devils.
But that’s not all. Hall’s relative CF% (the team’s CF% with Hall minus the team’s CF% without Hall) is positive at 3.79% - the highest among Devils forwards. In other words, the team has played better in 5-on-5 hockey when Hall is out there compared to when he is not. The other relative stats show something similar whether it is in shots (relSF%), goals (relGF%), and scoring chances (relSCF%); Hall is at 4.38 relSF%, 8.87 relGF%, and 4.97% relSCF%. These numbers show that when Hall is on the ice in 5-on-5 play, the Devils are a better team on offense. The proportion of attempts, shots, scoring chances, and goals all go in the right direction when #9 steps on the ice. At the end of the day, that’s what you want to see from your top offensive players.
The amazing thing is that this is not that unsurprising. Way back in July 2017, Woodguy55 at Because Oilers broke down the “star” players in the league by various stats after the 2016-17 season. He wanted to see whether teams are that much better with their star players on the ice than not. While the post does have an Oilers bent, Hall is included throughout the post and you can see that he’s had a positive impact on the ice even with last season’s bad Devils team. Whether it is in Corsi For%, Goals For%, or Dangerous Fenwick% (explained in the post), the Devils were far better off with Hall than not. That combined with the stats at Natural Stat Trick points to something we all probably knew: Hall has made the Devils that much better. And the points that Hall has provided has been significant to the team.
Hall vs. the Other Left Wingers in 2017-18
To be considered a superstar, he or she should at least match up well against the best of the best of their peers. Position designation in hockey is not exactly ironclad as players are moved around as needed. But Hall is definitely a left winger and the position does include some big names like Ovechkin, Benn, Gaudreau, Daniel Sedin, Brad Marchand, and others. To that end, let’s compare Hall to the league’s skaters and left wingers.
In terms of 5-on-5 stats, some of Hall’s stats aren’t all that hot. A 51% CF% isn’t that high with respect to the league, which is 275th in the whole league. Ditto his 3.7% relCF%, which is about 137th. But it is hard to compare such percentages across different teams that have been performing differently. There’s a bit of apples to apricots to say that Hall’s 51 CF% is not so good even though it’s on a team that hasn’t been good at CF% and he’s the top forward. What is more consistent to compare is production.
- Hall has 27 points. This places him tied for 15th among all skaters and tied with Alexander Ovechkin, Anders Lee, and Jamie Benn for third among all left wingers.
- Hall has 11 goals. This places him tied for 27th among all skaters (that tie includes Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar) and ninth among all left wingers.
- Hall has 16 total assists. This places Hall tied for 22nd among a lot of players like Patrick Kane, Henrik Sedin, and Henrik Zetterberg. Among all left wingers, 16 assists puts him tied for fourth among all left wingers with Jonathan Huberdeau, Ondrej Palat, and David Perron.
- Hall has 111 shots. This places Hall tied for tenth in the whole NHL. He’s also fourth among all left wingers; he’s only behind Jeff Skinner, Evander Kane, and Ovechkin in 5-on-5 shots.
- Hall has 185 individual shooting attempts (iCF). This puts him 21st in the whole league in this category. This places Hall seventh among all left wingers.
- Hall has 115 individual scoring chances (iSCF). Hall is eleventh in the NHL in this stat. This places Hall fourth among all left wingers. He’s behind Skinner, Ovechkin, and Brandon Saad.
- Hall has 56 high-danger scoring chances (iHDCF). Hall is tied for fifth (with Timo Meier) in the whole entire league in this category. This places Hall second among all left wingers, second only to Patrick Maroon.
From a 5-on-5 production standpoint, Hall is easily one of the most prolific left wingers in the whole league. In every category, he’s in the top-ten among the left wingers, and he’s even ahead of some big names in some categories. He’s also in at least the top 30 skaters in these categories. Hall has been a standout performer.
When you expand scoring to all situations, Hall is still up there. Even by going to NHL.com and playing around with their filters, you can see that Hall’s 48 points puts him tied with Brad Marchand and only behind Ovechkin and Johnny Gaudreau among all left wingers. His 17 power play points puts him tied with Gaudreau and Filip Forsberg to be second to Ovechkin among all left wingers. For all skaters, Hall is tied for 16th among the entire NHL in just points.
A top-20 scorer in addition to being within the top three at his position? On top of being a positive influence on this team in 5-on-5 play? It is clear that Hall is one of the best left wingers in the world today.
(And if there was more games tracked, CJ’s all-three zone tableau would show that Hall is among the best the league at generating zone entries and contributing shots too. With only 10 games tracked, I’ll hold off but the signs from the small portion of games provide even more reason to see Hall as a top-tier left winger.)
One of the Best Devils Seasons Ever for a Forward
Hall is on pace for making New Jersey Devils history. Hall currently averages 1.12 points per game. Provided he does not miss any more games and he maintains that rate, Hall will break ninety points. According to Hockey-Reference, there have been only been three players who broke that plateau: Kirk Muller in 1987-88, Zach Parise in 2008-09, and Patrik Elias in 2000-01. All three of those players had superior per-game point rates, which only goes to show how difficult it is to amass that many points.
Even so, Hall’s 1.12 point per game rate should secure him in a different historical context. Per Hockey-Reference, there have been only 27 instances of a Devils player maintaining a point-per-game rate while playing at least twenty games. This list includes Paiement, Lanny MacDonald, and Larry Gardner of Colorado Rockies, the post-trade runs of Ilya Kovalchuk and Doug Gilmour, and notable one-offs like Gionta, Petr Sykora, Jason Arnott, and Claude Lemieux, and the legendary Devils forward, Patrik Elias (who did this four times). Hall’s current rate of 1.12 is currently seventh in Devils history. It’s also the first rate above one since Kovalchuk’s 2011-12 season. This underscores how uncommon a point-per-game rate has been among Devils forwards in franchise history. It is not at all easy and to witness Hall doing so in 43 games so far this season shows that Hall is in rare company among past Devils forwards.
What makes this more impressive is that Hall is doing this on a team that doesn’t really have a lot of scoring. Consider the five players with point-per-game rates superior to Hall (additional stats from Hockey-Reference):
- In 2005-06, Elias caught fire as part of the EGG Line with Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, who both had career years. In 2000-01, Elias was the main producer on The A Line with Arnott and Sykora, who both also turned in big years. There was also a 40+ goal scorer in Alexander Mogilny that I’m sure Elias helped out with - even if it was only a little.
- In 1988-89, John MacLean had plenty of assistance (and goals to assist on) from Kirk Muller and Patrik Sundstrom. Aaron Broten was not as productive, but he did more than chip in a few. That all helped MacLean get to 87 points.
- In 1987-88, Muller, Pat Verbeek and a far more productive Broten was a killer line for the Devils. Verbeek’s 46 goals was a franchise record until Gionta broke it in 2005-06. That led Muller to put up 94 points; a franchise record until Elias surpassed it in 2000-01.
- In 2008-09, Zach Parise was a legit MVP contender. While his most common linemates were Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac per Natural Stat Trick, neither were slouches at all as they scored 29 and 20 goals, respectively. That helped Parise tie Muller’s 94 point mark.
- Lastly, in 1977-78, Gardner’s season was cut short to 46 games due to injury. He was still on a somewhat high-scoring Rockies squad that featured Paiement put up 87 points in 80 games as well as productive defensemen Barry Beck and John Van Boxmeer.
In each of these 1.12+ point-per-game seasons, the player who maintained that great rate of points had some seriously talented and productive players to play off of. Knowing this, Hall’s 2017-18 campaign is even more impressive. Hall’s most common linemates in this season are two rookies under the age of 20. Hischier and Bratt are two very talented rookies that I hope become great cornerstone forwards for the Devils. They are young rookies, all the same with Bratt having 12 goals and only 8 for Hischier. Further, the only other 10+ goalscorers on the team right now are Wood, Boyle, and Gibbons. Only Boyle has seen some regular time with Hall on the power play and Wood’s few shifts with Hall have been super productive. Not that the listed Devils had additional all-stars scoring, but there were some more “names” than the 2017-18 Devils. Perhaps that will change in the next 39 games, but the point is that there isn’t another notable producer on the 2017-18 team that has really helped Hall along to get his points like Elias, McLean, Muller, Parise, and Gardner had on that list. It really would be a big achievement in this franchise’s history if Hall can keep up his pace of production on top of being very good player in the run of play.
In short, if Hall keeps it up, he’s going to have one of the best seasons by a forward ever in franchise history.
The Other Stuff That is Also Glorious
Of course, what makes Hall so sensational goes beyond just the stats. We cannot ignore the stats. It’s the proof in the pudding. Intangibles and observations tend to get overhyped as what fills in the gap of what may not be explained. But I do agree that they can help explain why some players are just on another level.
Hall’s speed is a joy to watch and a total asset on the ice. Whereas Miles Wood definitely flies when he sees an opportunity, Hall has been able to do more at speed. Whether it is driving in for a scoring chance or just keeping the puck moving while his teammates are changing, Hall can make it a fast-paced shift in a matter of a second or two. I noted this back when the Devils acquired him (for the low cost of Adam Larsson!) and this was noted by Derek Zona at Copper & Blue even ahead of his debut. The closest comparison I could make is that Hall can move like a player on turbo in a sports video game.
Hall is also a very tough player. While Hall has only played more than 75 games in a season twice in his career, he has continued to play the same way and effectively. In addition to currently playing with something minor with his wrist/hand, the forward came back from a meniscus tear early last season. Back on November 16, 2016, Hall had surgery. The expectation was that he would be out for three to four weeks. He returned to the ice just over two weeks later on December 1 and played 19:49 in an overtime loss to Chicago. It would have been easy, especially last season, to take as much time as to recover. Hall jumped in ahead of schedule and tried his best to make something out of a really crummy season. There’s something to that.
Of course, what makes Hall stand out is not just that the Devils acquired him for just Adam Larsson but that the team who traded him sorely misses him. Yes, the Oilers made the playoffs last season. But they’re now back in the doldrums and the fans have once again realized something their management should have known: a team with Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall on it was not only possible but it would help out with a lot of their current issues. Imagine a top six with two guys as fast and offensively skilled as both just rushing through opposing players. Edmonton decided to give an also super-fast McDavid a slower, less skilled roster around him. In exchange for a defenseman that has been replaced somewhat easily, the Devils have an All-Star. It would be a dream if it didn’t involve some impressive Edmonton incompetence.
Lastly, Hall is the best Devil to wear #9 since a guy who is now in Minnesota. He has restored the number to some prominence.
Hall is the Devils’ superstar left winger.
Leave your thoughts and praises for Hall in the comments. Thank you for reading.