Back with the next installment of BPOW- figured it makes sense to alternate between more advanced/mature, more NHL-ready guys and those who are further away from competing for spots in the big show.
This week, we focus on 2018 fourth-rounder Curtis Hall, who spent the last two seasons playing for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL.
(Video clip of an early-season 2-goal game from Curtis Hall vs the Central Illinois Flying Aces, posted on YouTube by HockeyDraftCentral)
The B’s grabbed the Cleveland (Chagrin Falls), Ohio native in the fourth round, 119th overall in the June NHL draft, adding an intriguing if long-term option at center.
Although born in New Jersey, Hall was raised in the Buckeye State, spending 8 years with the Cleveland Barons minor hockey program before he signed a USHL tender with Youngstown in 2016. USHL teams are allowed to recruit and sign a maximum two exceptional “futures” players (must be 16 in their respective futures draft year) rather than wait for the draft and hope those players are available to them when their draft turns come. In exchange for signing tender players, teams surrender their 1st-round futures draft pick (and second in the event the team signs two tender players). The catch is- tender players must play a minimum of 55 percent of their USHL team’s games at age 16, and cannot be traded at any time during that first season after agreeing to the tender.
Hall played 59 of Youngstown’s 60 games in 2016-17, scoring 7 goals and 21 points while being broken in slowly. He nearly doubled his goal total to 13 in his second USHL season, but did not quite have the anticipated production and impact, cooling off after a hot start. Hall did have an effective Clark Cup playoff performance, helping lead Youngstown to the championship series with wins over the Dubuque Fighting Saints (3-0 series sweep) and U.S. NTDP Under-17 team (3-1) before falling to the Fargo Force in a 3 games to 1 loss.
Prior to his first USHL campaign, Hall committed to Yale University, and he will begin his freshman season in New Haven this coming fall. He also participated in the U.S. Junior Hockey Showcase in Kamloops, and was among the first roster cuts, but could be in good position to earn a spot for the 2020 World Junior Championship USA squad.
Hall has impressive pro tools- he’s 6-foot-3, and about 200 pounds with room to add mass onto his lanky frame. He’s got length and good athletic ability. This is not to say he’s a physical player who embraces contact, but Hall has the natural size and strength to get to the net and power through traffic.
With a fluid, powerful stride, Hall can drive wide with speed in the open ice, forcing defenders to backpedal. When Hall comes down your side with a full head of steam, your footwork had better be flawless- he can slip a stick check and go right to the net because he’s so fast and powerful. His first couple of steps could improve- because of his size, he can get a little exposed in the short-area game where agile and quick stops/starts and initial explosiveness are critical, but this is a quibble. As far as his skating goes, Hall is on the higher end of the spectrum and will be noticeable for his ability to play with speed especially when he is in space.
We’ve seen some reports questioning Hall’s hockey IQ, but disagree with that- he reads the play and anticipates well, often getting himself in position to receive breakout passes or return to his own zone to deny opponents time and space in the middle of the ice. He’s not a playmaking offensive center who is dynamic and creative, as much as he’s a smart, efficient 200-foot guy and former pro hockey player’s son who has good habits.
Hall possesses a pro-caliber shot and release- the puck comes off his stick in a blur and is hard/heavy and accurate. He’s a legitimate threat to finish off plays when he uses his large frame to get inside position and establish a netfront presence. While not overly skilled with the puck/able to dangle through a maze of sticks, he’s a serviceable offensive player who is a capable two-way presence who projects to be either a third- or fourth-line pivot eventually.
Hall joins the Yale Bulldogs and expectations here are that he will break in gradually as he adjusts to the faster pace and older players he’ll face in the ECAC. Because he has the reputation as a two-way player, he’ll put himself in position to earn more playing time depending on the transition from junior to NCAA D1 hockey.
Fans should not expect big numbers in his first year, but those who take the time to watch Yale games can best gauge Hall’s progress and development by looking at his ice time and what situations he’s playing in. Internet scouting is not going to cut it- we’re not looking at an elite offensive talent here- so temper the expectations and be patient, as Hall is probably a three-years at Yale minimum player, possibly all four.
Curtis Hall factoids
Curtis Hall’s father, Michael, is a former pro hockey player- he spent four years at Bowling Green State University and was a member of the ECHL’s Trenton Titans when the younger Hall was born during the 1999-00 season. Mike Hall played 18 games with the Providence Bruins in 2000-01.
Played in the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament (now the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup), the 2017 All-American Prospects Game, 2017 World Jr. A Challenge, and 2018 USHL Top Prospects Game in Kearney, Nebraska- checking all the boxes for pre-draft showcase events during the 2017-18 season.
Even though Hall had already signed his tender with Youngstown, he was invited to and attended the U.S. NTDP 40-man camp in spring 2016. Former Bruins scout and current Chicago Steel GM Ryan Hardy was then the NTDP’s Director of Player Personnel and extended the invitation to Hall.
Was also drafted by the OHL’s Flint Firebirds in the 10th round of the 2016 OHL Priority Selection.