Great debate ends with Hall over Seguin at NHL draft



LOS ANGELES — The Edmonton Oilers put the wrestling match to rest Friday night by selecting Windsor Spitfires forward Taylor Hall with the first overall pick at the NHL entry draft.

For months, debate and discussion went back and forth between the merits of taking Hall or his Ontario Hockey League rival, centre Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers.

The Oilers clearly liked the sizzle of Hall over the dependability of Seguin.

“I was so shocked. I was shaking in my seat,” Hall said after the announcement from Staples Center. “I got up to the podium . . . and I was shaking so much I couldn’t even put my jersey on. I’m just so happy. My whole family’s so happy. It means a lot to us.”

“They’re such a great franchise,” Hall said when asked about his new team. “They have so much history behind them. With the five Cups they won it would mean a lot to me to join their organization, hopefully bring another one up there.”

The fleet left-winger becomes an Oiler after a sensational junior career in Windsor. The Spitfires won back-to-back Memorial Cups the last two seasons, and in each, Hall walked away as tournament MVP.

Hall tied for the OHL scoring lead with Seguin this past season, collecting 106 points.

He also represented Canada at the 2010 world junior championship, where he won silver. Hall ended the season as the second-ranked player by NHL Central Scouting.

As expected, the Boston Bruins followed the Oilers’ selection by taking Seguin at No. 2.

Seguin finished the OHL season with 48 goals and 58 assists with the Whalers and was the top-ranked North American prospect by Central Scouting.

He said, given the past week, that he already feels like a Bruin.

“Actually I just ran into Mark Recchi at the hotel a couple times. We seem to be elevator buddies,” Seguin said. “He’s going to give me a lot of advice, and I’m looking forward to that. And of course, I’ve seen (Zdeno) Chara play. He was probably the best player I’ve ever seen on the Bruins this past year, and I think it’s going to be quite tough going one-on-one against him if I get that opportunity.”

The Florida Panthers took Kingston Frontenacs blue-liner Erik Gudbranson with the third pick overall.

The six-foot-four defenceman is most often compared to NHL star Chris Pronger. New Panthers GM Dale Tallon likes the edge Gudbranson brings to the table.

“Character is the No. 1 priority as far as the draft,” said Tallon. “Erik has impeccable character. I’m tired of teams coming down to Florida and having a vacation and having easy games and Erik is going to help with that.”

Gudbranson said it’s the team he wanted to go to all along, primarily because of his respect for Tallon.

“You see what he did with Chicago (where Tallon previous served as general manager),” said Gudbranson. “He built that team from scratch.”

With the fourth pick, the Columbus Blue Jackets surprised the prognosticators by picking Ryan Johansen of the Portland Winter Hawks. The centre had 25 goals in 71 games last season and was ranked 10th among North American skaters by Central Scouting.

The New York Islanders selected Swiss forward Nino Niederreiter with the fifth pick. Niederreiter had 36 goals in 65 games with Portland last season and was rated 12th by Central Scouting.

Highly touted winger Brett Connolly was Steve Yzerman’s first pick as Tampa Bay Lightning general manager. The Prince George winger was ranked third overall by Central Scouting, but two hip flexor injuries this past season might have scared off NHL clubs. Connolly played in just 16 games this year after initially injuring his hip last summer.

At No. 7, Carolina took right-winger Jeffrey Skinner from the Kitchener Rangers, who had 50 goals in the regular season and added another 20 in 20 OHL playoff games.

Barrie Colts centre Alexander Burmistrov was picked eighth overall by Atlanta. The six-foot, 170-pounder had 22 goals in 62 games last season.

With the ninth pick, Minnesota chose centre Mikael Granlund. He had 40 points in 43 league games for HIFK Helsinki.

Rounding out the top 10 was Dylan McIlrath of the Moose Jaw Warriors, selected by the New York Rangers. Considered the toughest player eligible for the draft, McIlrath had 169 penalty minutes in 65 WHL games.

The biggest surprise of the opening round was that both highly ranked defencemen Cam Fowler (No. 5, Central Scouting) and Brandon Gormley (No. 6) were passed over early on.

Fowler was finally picked, at No. 12 by Anaheim; Gormley at No. 13 by Phoenix.

Following Edmonton at No. 1, it was a long wait for the remaining Canadian teams to step up to the podium. The Ottawa Senators made it even longer.

Before their turn at No. 16, the Senators announced they had traded that pick to St. Louis for defenceman David Rundblad, who went 17th overall at last summer’s draft.

Oddly enough, it was another trade that moved the Montreal Canadiens into the picture next after Edmonton — moving up from 27th to 22nd thanks to a deal with Phoenix.

The Habs picked Jarred Tinordi from the U.S. national development team. The defenceman is the son of former NHLer Mark Tinordi.

Vancouver was supposed to be up next at No. 25, but traded wingers Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner plus their first-round pick to the Florida Panthers for defenceman Keith Ballard and forward Victor Oreskovich.

The Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs did not own first-round picks.

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