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After playing for, and being the captain and top defenceman on, the US National Team Development Program’s Under 17 group in 2013-14, it was expected that Noah Hanifin would lead the Under-18 team this season. Instead Hanifin choose to accelerate his education, taking extra courses last summer, and enroll early at Boston College, spending a year in the NCAA playing for the Eagles. He would have a successful season, despite the fact that Boston College was knocked out of the NCAA tournament at the regional stage, with 23 points in 37 games. Hanifin also played for Team USA at the World Junior Championships in December/January. He is still eligible to join the US team at the IIHF Under 18 World Championships later this spring.
Defense — shoots Left
Born Jan 25 1997 — Norwood, MA
Height 6.03 — Weight 185 [191 cm/84 kg]
The best defenceman in this draft, Noah Hanifin is big, strong, and mobile. He is a very good skater, with very good speed in both directions, a quick first step and excellent acceleration. He has high quailty edgework and pivoting ability to quickly change directions and as a result is able to cover a ton of ice. His stride is powerful and he shows good balance, making him hard to knock off the puck, and helping him win board battles, and clear the crease.
Noah Hanifin is an excellent two-way player. He is able to quarterback the power play as he possesses a hard and accurate slapshot, one timer, and wrist shot. He understands that he should keep his shots low, in order to get it through traffic and generate rebounds and deflections for his teammates. Hanifin’s edgework and agility give him the ability to walk the line, and open up passing and shooting lanes. He has good vision and great passing skills, and can be the playmaker at the back end as well. Hanifin is also able to join or lead the rush out of his own end. He has the poise and good puckhandling ability to avoid forecheckers and skate the puck out of danger or can make a strong first pass.
Hanifin is no slouch in his own end of the rink. He plays shut down defence, with excellent positioning, an active stick, and strong anticipation. He has been a top four defender, playing big minutes, and important situations for the Eagles despite being an underage freshman. He is not afraid to block shots. When given the opportunity Hanifin has shown the ability to use his big frame to throw a big hit. However he is smart enough and disciplined enough to pick his spots, and not get himself out of position looking for that big hit.
There has been much made about whether or not Noah Hanifin will return to Boston College for one more year or attempt to turn pro. Of course the issue here is that while NCAA players can attend summer camps and maintain their eligibility, they cannot attend NHL training camps (unless their fall semester has not started) and so he must make that decision before even trying to make the team. I believe that Hanifin is very close to being NHL ready, though he could stand to add more muscle to his frame, and with more and more young defenders succeeding in the NHL, heading to camp with a pro contract in hand would not surprise me.
My ranking of Hanifin at 5th overall is not a shot at him. In fact I consider him to be very similar today to what Aaron Ekblad was just one year ago. This ranking says more about the top end talent in the draft, than it does about Noah Hanifin. He has the potential to be a #1 franchise defining defenceman. In terms of style (not a talent comparison) I would compare Hanifin to Ryan McDonagh.
Here are some highlights of Hanifin in action.
Check back tomorrow for my #6 ranked prospect.