You’re only a rookie once.
It just doesn’t always feel like that.
Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall, now entering his sixth season in the NHL, said he feels like this year’s new-look Oilers brings a fresh start for all involved.
“It almost seems like it’s my first year again, with all the changes that have been made, and with Connor coming in, and a new coach,” Hall told Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Tuesday morning. “I think it’s given a lot of guys reason for excitement.”
With that excitement comes plenty of pressure. And while all eyes are on Connor McDavid as he makes his NHL debut, Hall is prepared to shoulder as much of that pressure as he can so McDavid can focus on what he does best: play hockey.
“There’s certainly a lot of hype and pressure around [McDavid], but I think it seems like he’s handling it well,” said Hall, who is in Toronto all week participating in the BioSteel hockey camp alongside McDavid, Tyler Seguin, and plenty of other NHLers.
“Not a lot of 18-year-olds have tremendous success in the NHL, so it’s going to be a learning curve but I have a feeling that he’s going to sharpen that curve and make it as quick as possible,” added Hall.
Hall also touched on his first impressions of playing with McDavid during this week’s camp, his excitement about playing under new head coach Todd McLellan, and how he’s embracing his new leadership role on the team. Here are a few excerpts:
On playing with Connor McDavid:
He’s got tremendous foot speed. It’s always interesting when you skate for the first time with a player that you’re probably going to play with … He’s got the whole package.
On what he wished he’d known at McDavid’s age:
I’ve learned a lot. I had a lot of good mentors in Edmonton, guys like Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Whitney. They were guys that have been around, been to Cup finals … I learned from them just to enjoy it. It really is a privilege to play in the NHL, and you’re only a No. 1 pick in a Canadian city in your first year, only one time. And that’s a special experience. I think with [McDavid], he’s going to have probably a better team than I had my first year — we finished last that year — so it’s up to him to enjoy it, and it’s up to us in Edmonton, not only the players but our staff, to make him feel like he’s welcome on our team and he can play the best he can.
On playing for Todd McLellan:
We had an inkling [at the World Championships] that he was going to be our coach, so as soon as I heard that, I took some mental notes … It was a lot of fun to play for him, so I’m looking forward to it.
I think everyone’s going to enjoy playing for Todd. It’s going to be a challenge, there’s no doubt about it, but I think we’re ready for it.