Going through the Carolina Hurricanes’ draft history, defensemen have been a major disappointment based on how many selections were made. Since 2010 and the selection of up and coming stud Justin Faulk, the Canes have selected nine defensemen with only a few seeing a handful of NHL games. They used their first round draft pick on Haydn Fleury (7th overall) during the last NHL Entry Draft and will likely do the same if the opportunity arises this year.
Enter Noah Hanifin.
Based on team-specific needs and the top two selections being used on Conor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the Hurricanes could very well benefit from Hanifin dropping to the fifth overall pick. Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner are currently ranked higher on FanSided NHL’s mock draft and both the Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs could use an offensive boost up front.
At just 18 years old, Hanifin has turned all the right heads in 2014-15. Playing as a freshman for Boston College, he was the youngest player to ever play for the team at 17 in October and tore the NCAA apart with the help of teammate Eichel. He finished the season with 23 points in 37 games and proved he belonged in the same conversation as Eichel and McDavid going into the 2015 entry draft.
Measuring 6’3″ and weighing 205 pounds, Hanifin projects to be a very good-sized defenseman which is exactly what the Hurricanes need. His elite-level skating parlayed with his ever-growing hockey sense is the perfect combination to boost the blueline. Faulk and Ryan Murphy, the two best young defenseman in the Canes’ system, were a combined minus-30 this season and are primarily offensive-minded. Hanifin would be the perfect compliment to their skill-set and would bring his own variety to the table as well.
Hanifin’s most impressive attribute is his ability to adapt and play both ends of the ice. He has been praised for his skating and offense but his defensive ability and willingness to play the body is what makes him so good. He is naturally versatile and has a great mind for the game, which will only get better as he gains more experience. The Hurricanes have needed a facelift on the back-end for a while, and Hanifin is the perfect candidate to fill that void.
Hanifin is by far the most-skilled and NHL-ready defenseman in the draft but his status for next season remains unknown. While the Hurricanes could use the the help on the blueline, there is certainly no rush and they may return him to Boston College for his sophomore season.
In the end, whether it be this season or next, Hanifin will surely prove he deserves to be in the same class as McDavid and Eichel, both in this year’s draft and for years to come.