Nation Network Prospect Profiles: #6 Noah Hanifin

At this point in the draft, we’re really splitting hairs about who’s better than whom. Noah Hanifin is a great player. The guy we have at #5 is a great player. The guys sitting at 4th and 3rd  are also great players. After McDavid and Eichel, there’s really no “wrong” way to order these next four players. Still, we have to prefer some guy, and perhaps a little controversially, that guy isn’t Noah Hanifin.

And that’s the most negative thing you’ll read in this profile because the kid is one hell of a hockey player.

Bio:

  • Age: 17.64 years old at start of season. Born January 25, 1997
  • Birthplace: Norwood, Massachusetts
  • Frame: 6’2, 205 lbs
  • Position: D
  • Draft Year Team: Boston College (NCAA)
  • Accomplishments: 

Stats:

PCS% 2014 PCS Pts/82 2014 PCS% 2015 PCS Pts/82 2015
45.5% 31.1 35.7% 17.9
PCS Most NHL GP PCS Highest Pts/GP
Aaron Ward Ryan Suter
Ron Hainsey Erik Johnson
Ryan Suter Jack Johnson

Scouts:

Draft rank:

NHL CSS ISS FutureConsiderations HockeyProspect Pronman McKeen’s McKenzie Button
3 (NA) 5 3 4 5 3 3 12

From Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects:

A dynamic two-way defenseman that has no holes in his game. An exceptionally strong skater who isn’t afraid to take the puck himself and move it up-ice. The confidence that he has in his abilities lets him thrive under heightened competitive levels. The skilled defenseman’s undeniably high level of hockey sense is showcased whenever he touches the puck in the offensive zone. Defensively, he is aggressive, constantly pushing for puck possession and a quick transition to offense, but at the same time steadfast, reliable, and patient. He is poised beyond his years and mature in his decision making. All-in-all, Noah Hanifin is the ideal all-around defenseman that leaves no area of his game untended.

From Craig Button, TSN:

Effortless skater with excellent mobility and footwork. I see him as a very good player in the mold of Jay Bouwmeester not as an elite defenceman because I have yet to see a clear demonstration of elite offensive creativity.  That is why in my estimation, he is not the best defenceman in the draft.

From Future Considerations:

The 2015 draft’s top defenseman…a smart and powerful two-way force… big, but very mobile… moves well with good speed and agility…uses his strength and reach very well when he rushes the puck, and he is tough to contain when he gets going…is skilled and confident with the puck and has the ability to take it end-to-end…used his size and body well to contain players and box them out on the walls…is smart and makes great defensive decisions…has an instinctive knack for knowing where his teammates are on the ice…supremely skilled quarterbacking the power play.

Our Take:

To be completely honest, once we get up to guys like Noah Hanifin in our rankings, these profiles get pretty dull to write. The players at the top end of the draft are so good and so complete that breaking down their abilities and potential becomes less and less nuanced and more like a checklist of things these guys are good at.

Noah Hanifin simply does everything well. His skating is superb, his puck skills are strong, he’s excellent defensively, he can play a powerful physical game, he has high-end IQ both offensively and defensively, he can quarterback a powerplay and kill penalties effectively. He’s just good at everything to the point where flaws in his game are less areas in need of special consideration and more minor quibbles.

Corey Pronman, for example, points out that Hanifin’s offensive IQ and puck skills aren’t top-notch (this is a similar sentiment echoed by Craig Button), but even here, the criticism amounts to little more than “he’s not at the highest end of this fantastic draft class.” Pronman describes Hanifin as “elite all-around” too, so any criticism is tempered by the backdrop of not really having any major criticism.

The most critical we can be of Hanifin is that his PCS numbers aren’t great for a potential top-3 pick. His closest NCAA comparable is Aaron Ward, and Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, and Ryan Suter make appearances for Hanifin’s 16-year old season in the USHL and USDP. The Next Ryan Suter is definitely worth a top-5 pick, but both Johnsons were supposed to be that too, and didn’t really come close.

Some of this is born out of Hanifin being a pretty unique talent, though. There hasn’t been an NCAA player who’s a good statistical comparable to Hanifin in the past decade, and the most recent guy who came close was ill-fated Minnesota Wild 1st round pick A.J. Thelen in 2003-04. Not a lot of guys are able to do what Hanifin has done, and that in itself is a strong indicator that he’s really, really good.

Defensemen are always harder to project, however – just ask  the St. Louis Blues about Erik Johnson and Jonathan Toews and Nicklas Backstrom – so Hanifin also carries a bit more “we don’t really know how he’s going to develop” relative to the forwards around this range. Even so, Hanifin’s skill set is as well-rounded as it is high-end and rare, and he’s clearly an excellent prospect. He may settle in to being a solid top-4 guy at the NHL level, but the potential is also there to be a top-2 minute eater on a contending team.