Noah Hanifin is the third prospect in the draft rankings. He is a defenseman out of Boston College, and the top defenseman in the draft. I can tell this guy is going to be good.
First thing I notice is his defensive awareness. He senses where other attackers and teammates are, making good decisions based off of it. He can hold the blue line, preventing an entry, and has the ability to poke the puck away without getting out of position. He understands when he can afford to close in on his man and when he has to stay in the passing lane. He’ll take away his man as an option and let the goaltender focus on one guy. As defensemen, players tend to want to give time and space because they believe that protects them. The opposite is true, though; they should take it away as quick as they can, and Hanifin has those excellent gaps that take away that space. He also knows when it is smart to pinch and when to get back on defense. Hanifin isn’t a very physical guy, but he does get in on the forecheck. The one criticism I do have on his defense is that, when the opposition is set up in the offensive zone, he tends to stand around focusing on the puck instead of his assignment.
Hanifin does have good puck handling skills; he doesn’t cough up the puck too much. Another great aspect he has is springing men with nice outlet passes. He starts a good amount of odd man rushes. His passes in general are very good. He has a good shot, but is indecisive offensively. There are times when it seems he’s not sure what he wants or needs to do. As one example, he’ll sometimes wait too long to shoot, allowing the goaltender to get into position and regain his line of sight.
Overall, he is a very good defenseman, and I would even think of picking him first overall. I would expect Edmonton to take him, unless their thinking is that Nurse is their future star defenseman and don’t need another. The only thing that made me hesitant at first is the fact that it takes longer for a defenseman to develop, but for any team rebuilding, it will take the same amount of time to get to where they want to be, so by that time, it wouldn’t matter. I’ll use the Canes as an example if he somehow dropped to number five in the draft. By the time he fully develops, a defensive core of Justin Faulk, Hadyn Fluery, Roland Mckeown, and Noah Hanifin looks very good.