Every year there are player polls that come out about the most underrated or overrated players, and it’s always a hotly debated topic among fans. For years Loui Eriksson was considered highly underrated when he was with the Dallas Stars, and he was.
For whatever reason though, I think the players we underrate most in hockey are the superstars. Alex Ovechkin is likely the most underrated player in the NHL over the past decade, because he’s likely the greatest pure goal scorer to ever lace up skates, and is rarely given the respect he deserves.
Another player who has continually put up excellent production to very little fanfare is Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers. Hall was chosen first overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, and that comes with certain expectations, but he’s also on pace for the third point-per-game season of his young career.
Yet Hall is rarely mentioned for things like Team Canada’s Olympic roster, and his name even comes up in trade rumours surrounding the Oilers. While eventually Connor McDavid will surpass him, Hall is the best player on the Oilers by a mile right now, especially when it comes to offence.
In every component that leads to high quality scoring chances, Hall is producing at both a team-high rate, and just about double the team average for forwards. Hall is a shoot-first player, but he’s also creating more scoring chances with passes than anyone else. He’s incredibly dynamic.
Overall, Hall creates 7.1 scoring chances per 20 minutes played at even strength, the ninth-best mark in the league, sandwiched between Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk. That statistic is even more incredible when you consider that the Oilers’ forwards on average create just 4.2 scoring chances per 20 minutes, the fifth-worst mark in the league. That means Hall is doing a lot of the work on his own.
That brings us to another area where Hall is incredibly dominant; transitioning the puck up the ice. Jen Lute-Costella noted during her tracking project that for an inordinate number of Hall’s goals, the primary assist occurs in the defensive zone. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that Hall is third in the entire NHL among forwards in possession-driving plays at 22.1 per 20 minutes played at even strength, behind only Gustav Nyquist and Jack Eichel.
On a team that prefers to dump the puck in on entries to the offensive zone, Hall’s ability to gain the zone with control of the puck has an incredibly positive impact on his linemates. Hall is sixth in the NHL in controlled zone entries per 20 minutes played at 6.1, but that isn’t where it ends. He also leads his team in controlled zone exits with 10.4 per 20 minutes, the fourth-best mark among forwards in the entire league.
This is a player who makes the best possible play more often than almost anyone else in the league, and it shows in his production, his possession statistics, and impact on linemates.
Perhaps the reason Hall doesn’t get the respect he deserves is simply because he plays for the Oilers, who have been such a mess his entire career, but he is one of the best and most exciting players in the game.