Here is what you need to know about top-ranked defenceman Noah Hanifin.
Age on June 26: 18
Birthplace: Norwood, Mass.
Current team: Boston College, Hockey East
Weight: 203 pounds
NHL Central Scouting rank (North American): 3rd
Marek’s Take: Hanifin is a high-end skater who plays in all situations. He’s big, powerful and has good offence to his game. Comparable: Like a Duncan Keith or Ryan Suter who will play huge minutes. Can play in the NHL next season.
He skates like Niedermayer
Hanifin has a lot going for him but nothing stands out more than his skating ability, and he uses it to his advantage.
On offence Hanifin uses his speed to skate the puck out of danger or lead a rush up ice, while on defence his long and fluid stride allows him to quickly close the gap on opposing forwards and get back in position if he gets caught up ice.
The modern NHL is built on speed and being able to quickly transition between offence and defence is a key component for many of today’s elite defencemen. When he does make his way to the NHL, Hanifin has the raw ability to potentially become one of the best skating defencemen in the world.
Here’s what director of Central Scouting Dan Marr had to say about the subject: “Everybody looks at him and says he’s a gifted offensive player, and he is, but what makes him so special is his transition game. He ‘gets it’ – that you have to play defence first and the offence will follow.”
Here’s one example of how he uses his speed and acceleration to his advantage:
… He’s not a forward?
Seriously, there’s just not many holes in his game. Aside from his elite skating, Hanifin gets full grades for his hockey sense, puck-movement and poise; he can also run a power play and has impressive size and strength for a player his age. There’s a reason he’s been the consensus third-rated prospect throughout the year.
The only thing that could hurt his draft stock come June 26 is that with all things equal, teams often lean to a forward over a defenceman. There’s no better example of that than Seth Jones, who despite being the top-ranked player in 2013 ended up falling to the Nashville Predators at fourth overall.
With the Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs both desperate for help up front — particularly at centre — there’s an outside chance Hanifin could follow in Jones’ footsteps and fall into the lap of a lucky suitor.
Boys to men
Hanifin fast-tracked his high school graduation in order to join Boston College in the fall, becoming the second-youngest player to suit up for the Eagles in the school’s storied history.
His age didn’t seem to hold him back, as he finished his freshman year with five goals and 23 points in 37 games while playing heavy minutes against some of the toughest competition in college hockey.
But that wasn’t the first time Hanifin rose through the ranks. After starting the 2013-14 season with the under-17 program in Ann Arbor, Mich., leading all defencemen on the team with 33 points in 45 games, Hanifin made the jump to the under-18 team later in the year and didn’t miss a beat, scoring 13 points in 14 games.
Will he continue to fast-track his career and jump straight into the NHL as an 18-year-old next season? Don’t count him out.
Hanifin has represented the United States on the international stage three times. Last season he captained the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and was a standout as an underager at the U18 World Championship. He finished second among defencemen in tournament scoring with five points in seven games en route to the U18 gold medal.
The Norwood, Mass., native also represented the U.S. this past winter at the World Junior Championship, registering two assists in five games.