Teams are not tanking for Noah Hanifin. There are no silly NHL jerseys being hastily made for the Boston College star defenseman. And if you mention Hanifin’s name as possibly going to one of these tanking fanbases via social media – you know who you are – you get treated with scorn and hostility. At least electronically.
But the Sabres, Coyotes, Hurricanes, Oilers or any of the other tanking teams would be so lucky to grab the 6-foot-3, 205-pound consolation prize of the 2015 NHL draft, who many lists as the third-best player available in this selection process.
Hanifin on the Sabres would provide a rock defensively on a blueline with Zach Bogosian for years. Put Hanifin with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Coyotes would turn back into the defensive juggernaut they were a few years ago.
Add Hanifin to Carolina’s defense and fill a hole. Edmonton is screwed regardless, so we’re not going to imagine Hanifin with that organization.
The native of Norwood, Mass. is a good player. And while he may not be a generational offensive talent like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, he’d be a fine selection at the upcoming draft.
“For an old school guy, he’s maybe like a Rob Blake kind of guy,” a Western Conference amateur scout said. “That big, that strong can skate, can do it both ways. Just one of those big horses every good team in the league has one or more of those guys. He’s going to be one of those guys who will be a fixture for a long time you can rely on a lot and using in all situations. “
Oh the horror, a Rob Blake-type player on your blueline for the next 10 seasons. Didn’t he just get elected into the Hall of Fame and have his number retired by Los Angeles?
There’s a lot of facets to Hanifin’s game, so many that for some it’s hard to figure out how he will look at the NHL level, because he can do so much as a blueliner.
“The thing with Noah is he’s hard to, what I would call … pinpoint a comparable to him. He’s a good mixture of a lot of hall of famers and a lot of future hall of famers,” NHL central scouting director Dan Marr said, going big and bold. “For me, he’s a real old school, old soul player who is excelling in today’s game, and when I say that, he just has that composure on the ice with and without the puck and is never rattled. He rarely makes mistakes, he’s rarely out of position. And when he does get into a position where he has to recover, he can do it quickly. “
Those sound like some great attributes. So Noah, what does it feel like to be considered a consolation prize in this year’s draft in spite of these lofty comparisons.
“It’s never a consolation to be drafted into the NHL,” said Hanifin, who has 21 points in 33 games with Boston College this year. “It would be a dream come true.”
In some ways, Hanifin is just a victim of poor timing. He happens to be of age in a draft year that has the fabled McEichel. And for teams whose fans have been clamoring for an elite offensive talent for years, getting the next Seth Jones or Aaron Ekblad isn’t nearly as sexy.
“At certain positions you can probably impact the game, to say they can pull you out of your seat more. When Jack Eichel has the puck, some of the things he can do with it offensively to create chances jumps off the page at you,” the scout said. “Hanifin is more just one of those guys, he’s so big and smooth and can do it at both ends.”
While an elite center is arguably the most important position in hockey, the last team that won without a true cornerstone defenseman was probably Carolina in 2005-06. And that team was so loaded at forward, it didn’t need an incredible defenseman. It was a true outlier
Said Marr, “If there’s a team that wants a cornerstone D-man who wants to be with their franchise for a decade or more, there has been stranger things known to have happened on draft day. “
Probably not this draft. Whoever gets Hanifin won’t be as lucky as the squad that gets McDavid or Eichel. But it will have what should turn into, by all accounts, a valuable and important piece.
In that case shall we call it McEichifin?
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