Many 18 year-olds spend their time worrying about mid-term exams, relationships with their dormmates, and generally finding a way through their first year of college. Noah Hanifin is no exception, only this 18 year-old’s worries are about lining up across from Alex Ovechkin, rooming with center Nathan Gerbe, and generally trying to keep from letting his team or the thousands of Carolina fans down.
Born in 1997 in Norwood, Massachusetts, Hanifin developed his hockey skills at Saint Sebastian’s School, known for having one of the top hockey programs in the US. Hanifin played for the US Under 17 team but was quickly bumped up to the Under 18 national team as an underage player. Hanifin then fast-tracked his high school graduation in order to play at Boston College as a 17 year-old. After only one season the defensive phenom entered the 2015 Entry Draft and wound up with the Hurricanes as the 5thoverall selection. Signed to a three-year deal Hanifin made his debut on October 8th of last year and has so far been able to do what very few defensemen have done, crack an NHL roster while still a teenager, and he seems to be doing it quite well.
Noah’s unique combination of physical size, defensive skill, and mental maturity has helped him hold his own in a world he has very little experience for. “In the NHL, everything’s so fast and you need to do everything the right way,” Hanifin said. “That’s the biggest thing. Your job is always on the line in the NHL.” While 3 goals and 14 assists might not be all-star numbers it’s worth remembering that just three seasons ago this future star was still playing high school hockey in Massachusetts. The Hurricane’s maintain that some grooming in the AHL might be in order but everyone seems to agree that simply might not be necessary. Hanifin, however, is the first to admit that he still has a lot to learn. “I’m not where I want to be yet,” he says. “It’s my first year, and I’m 18. It’s more of a learning experience. I still have a long ways to go.”
With 69 games under his belt Noah Hanifin has a solid taste of life at the NHL level. There is no question about his talent. All that remains to be seen is what kind of point producer he will turn into as he gains confidence and experience both on and off the ice. The future is bright for what most consider the best defensive prospect in the game today but he still has a long road ahead. On the bright side, he doesn’t have to worry about any final exams.