Overwhelmed at first, Hall now loving fast-paced life with New Jersey Devils

Hall adjusting to fast-paced life with New Jersey Devils

Taylor Hall has learned how to avoid rush hour traffic in New York City.

Overwhelmed when he first made the jaunt from New Jersey to Manhattan as a first-year left winger for the Devils, Hall is used to it now. Not only does he know when to get in and out of the city to avoid the almost incomparable snare of New York traffic, he knows how to get around, too.

Life just outside one of the biggest cities in the world took some adjustment for the 25-year-old from Alberta.

“It’s a fresh start (and) that part made it fun and exciting and it still is for me,” said Hall. “The New Jersey symbol still doesn’t feel completely real to me, but I’m having a lot of fun with it.”

Now living in New Jersey, Hall had been used to life in Alberta. He grew up in Calgary rooting for Jarome Iginla and the Flames before playing six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him first overall in 2010. 

“The New York City area is very congested,” Hall said during his second appearance at the NHL all-star game. “Everyone’s in a rush in New York City and Jersey. Everyone’s in a rush to do things.”

“In Alberta,” he added, “people are more relaxed and you’re more likely to have a door held open for you in Alberta than you are probably in New York City.”

The pace was too much at first. But now, almost five months into his tenure with the Devils, Hall likes the big city it just fine, especially the ease with which he can order anything on his mobile phone, like food or dry-cleaning.

Hall wasn’t happy when Edmonton, after years of poor rebuilding teams, shipped him to New Jersey in an NHL-rattling trade for defenceman Adam Larsson last summer. He was admittedly bitter after the trade, his first as a professional, describing it as an “indictment” on his capability as a hockey player and a sting to his “deep connection” with the city of Edmonton.

He was also exiting a Connor McDavid-led squad that looked to be on the rise while joining a Devils club only just beginning to rebuild under second-year general manager Ray Shero. 

It took about a month before Hall found a normal routine with his new team. Adam Henrique, a former teammate with the Windsor Spitfires and career Devil, was especially helpful, pointing Hall in the right direction as far as where to live and find transportation.

Typically, the off-ice adjustment is most challenging for traded players, but for Hall it was the opposite. The Devils style — heavier defensively as he describes it — was so much different from the freewheeling Oilers squads he left behind in Alberta.

“I’d say that on the ice, still even to this day, I’m still adjusting to how we want to play and that type of thing,” Hall said. “But I think I’m doing a good job of it.”

If not quite at the pace of his most potent NHL season — the 2013-14 campaign when he had 27 goals and 80 points in 75 games — Hall has still found a way to be  effective, producing at about the same level on a per-game basis as last year in Edmonton when he notched 26 goals and 65 points in 82 games.

He’s on pace for about 20 goals and almost 60 points in 72 games, leading the Devils in both categories despite missing eight games in November with a knee injury.

Hall, who has three more seasons left after this one on a six-year pact (cap hit of US$6 million), has given the Devils, fighting for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the jolt of offence they’ve needed.

Though the club still ranks as one of the lower scoring NHL teams — up to 27th entering play on Monday from 30th last season — New Jersey generates about 55 per cent of available five-on-five scoring chances with Hall on the ice (tops on the team) and almost 60 per cent of the highest-danger opportunities — namely those around the net.

“Certainly it’s a big change,” Hall said of the move. “At the start I was a little bit overwhelmed, but now I love it.”

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press