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As the third overall pick in the 2013 QMJHL Draft, and coming out of the prestigous Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school, big things were expected out of Nathan Noel as he joined a rebuilding Saint John Sea Dogs team. When he scored a goal in his first QMJHL game, expectations seemed to get even higher. However he would finish with just 16 goals and 39 points, learning that things are not easy for 16 year olds in the CHL, even those who are highly touted. Things got better this season as Noel had 24 goals and 62 points in 66 games, and he helped the Sea Dogs find their way back into the QMJHL playoffs. He added seven points in five playoff games, and was one of Saint John’s better players in their first round playoff loss. Noel has also represented Team Atlantic twice at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge, and was a member of Team Canada’s bronze medal winning team at this year’s IIHF Under 18 World Championships.
Center — shoots Right
Born Jun 21 1997 — St. John’s, NFLD
Height 6.0 — Weight 172 [182 cm/78 kg]
Nathan Noel is a very good skater. He has very quick feet, showing short but smooth strides that provide him with excellent speed and acceleration. He has a good first step and can win races to loose pucks. His speed makes him extremely dangerous in transition and off the rush, as he can take defencemen wide and make a pass to a teammate in the slot, or cut to the net himself. His agility and edgework are also at a very high level, which he combines with his stickhandling to be extremely elusive. His balance and power are decent, but could be improved with added lower body strength.
Nathan Noel has all the offensive skills necessary to be a good NHL prospect. He has slick hands, and can control the puck and stick handle in a phone booth. He has good vision, and the ability to thread the needle on a pass through the tightest of openings, with a tape-to-tape pass that will give a teammate a prime scoring opportunity. He also has the ability to finish plays in close to the net, and a hard and accurate wrist shot from further out. Noel has very strong hockey sense, making smart passes, and taking his own scoring chances when they are available. He could stand to fill out his frame a bit more which would make him better at digging out loose pucks along the boards, and in winning battles in front of the net. He does show a willingness to get involved offensively and plenty of compete though. Despite his lack of muscle, plays a pest style of game in the offensive zone, with a non-stop motor, and the ability to work the corners and drive goalies crazy in front of the net.
Noel’s defensive game will drive coaches crazy, and quite simply must improve. He needs a lot of work on his positioning and on continuing to stay active in the defensive zone. He will get himself into a good spot, but then stop moving his feet and start to puck watch, which really gets him in trouble in his own end. He needs to work on bringing the non-stop energy he has in the offensive zone to the defensive end of the ice. Noel will also need work on his faceoff skills. In fact it is extremely possible that the lack of defensive game means that Noel will be transitioned to wing at the pro level.
Nathan Noel is a serious boom or bust prospect. He has the potential to be a solid second line centre or winger, but will need to make major improvements in his defensive play and commitment for him to become an NHLer. In terms of style, Noel plays a game that is similar to Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning, however this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on talent.
Below are some videos of Nathan Noel in action.
Check back later for another article in our ongoing NHL draft series.