OILERS LEFT WING Taylor Hall, who doesn't turn 20 until November, appreciates what he learned as a rookie last season. "I had to get used to the reactions, the speed of the game," says Hall, a diamond in what turned out to be a very rough campaign for Edmonton. The Oilers finished with 62 points, the lowest total in the NHL. The once-proud franchise certainly earned its place in the cellar, finishing in the bottom five in the league in power-play efficiency (14.5%), penalty killing (76.9%), goals scored (191), goals against (260), shots taken (2,188) and face-off percentage (44.2%), while leading the NHL in giveaways (972).
Hall was worth watching, though: He had 42 points and 22 goals, four of them game-winners, and showed off his scoring flair with a hat trick in February against Atlanta. This summer the Oilers traded for veteran Ryan Smyth, who spent the first 111/2 seasons of his career in Edmonton before being dealt to the Islanders during the 2006--07 season. That was the last time Smyth had a 30-goal season, but the Oilers brought back the 35-year-old to mentor Hall, who is likely to play on a line with veterans Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. There's also an even younger gun in town: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Oilers' kids will keep growing, but it will take at least another year for them to learn about the playoffs.