New faces. New places. For most individuals, a change of setting leads to a sharp learning curve and unfamiliarity. For New Jersey Devils forwards Taylor Hall and P.A. Parenteau, the transition to the Garden State was a smooth one, with each party developing strong chemistry during the first month of the NHL season.
“I get along well with Taylor off the ice too, so it makes things easier when we play together (on the top scoring line,” Parenteau said. “We are constantly working hard, which is the key to success. I am just having fun playing like last year. It is a good recipe for me.”
Since Zach Parise’s well-publicized free agent departure four seasons ago, the New Jersey Devils have lacked a dynamic offensive playmaker. After finishing last in the NHL in scoring a year ago, the Devils acquired former first overall pick Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in July and the move is paying immediate dividends.
In his first 12 games in a Devils uniform, Hall is tied for the team lead in scoring with nine points and recorded his 200th career assist in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Hall also scored the clinching goal in the shootout and set up Parenteau for the winger’s fifth goal of the young season to open the first-period scoring.
“PA brings a lot of skill to this team,” Hall said. “He is always looking to make a play. I am trying to get him to shoot more and this game was a good example of that. In the shootout, I saw that Cam Ward closed his five-hole, so I was trying to get a shot over his blocker and it was a good shot and good feeling to win the game.”
At the close of training camp, the thought of Parenteau being available on the open market seemed unfathomable after developing into a dependable contributor with five different teams, including two seasons with the New York Islanders. Following an impressive 20 goal season with Toronto, Parenteau signed a one-year deal last summer to return to the Islanders, but with the emergence of young prospects such as Anthony Beauvillier, Parenteau was not part of their future plans, enabling the Devils to claim the 33-year-old veteran on waivers.
“That was exciting when I was talking to (Devils General Manager) Ray Shero when P.A. was on waivers and the day we got him was also exciting,” Devils head coach John Hynes said. “Any time a player goes on waivers, we discuss it, from Ray down to the coaching staff. P.A. is a great guy and an extremely talented player who brings energy to this team.”
Like Parenteau, few expected Hall to change addresses in the off-season. The first overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Oilers, Hall met individual expectations, but the club finished no better than fifth in their division (in a non-lockout year) during his six seasons in Edmonton and the team perennially selected at the top of the draft. With phenom Connor McDavid and promising center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in tow, the Oilers deemed Hall expendable and bolstered their defense by trading him for Adam Larsson. Coach Hynes believes that Hall’s easygoing demeanor aided his swift transition and chemistry with Parenteau.
“Taylor has played well with whomever we put him with. He is an easy guy to pair because of his speed and work ethic,” Hynes explains. “He drives the play. When you look at Parenteau’s track record, when he was with the Islanders, he played with John Tavares. He has a track record of scoring close to 20 goals per year. When you look at P.A.’s track record, he’s played well with excellent players and it’s made the transition easy for both players,” (Parenteau and Hall).
The Devils’ early season success weighs heavily on their first line, which has produced more than half of the team’s overall goal output thus far. In order for their strong start to achieve sustainability, the Devils must attain balance on each of their scoring lines. Trailing 2-1 in the early stages of the third period on Tuesday, fourth line winger Nick Lappin scored his first NHL goal and put his club in position to come out triumphant in the shootout. Hall senses that the efforts of the fourth line help fuel the play of the rest of the team, including the top line.
“I’d love to know the win/loss record of a team after the fourth line gets a goal,” Hall said. “It was a huge goal, not only for Lappin, but it is a huge boost for our team when that line does that. They work hard and do the little things right and it’s fun to see them get rewarded