International Ice Hockey Federation

Not to be forgotten

Not to be forgotten

Hanifin expected to be top-three pick in 2015

Published 26.12.2014 14:09 GMT-5 | Author Ryan O'Leary
Not to be forgotten
Noah Hanifin during the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images
Boston will serve as the epicentre of coverage during the next NHL Draft with World Juniors participants Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin among the top contenders.

Although the draft will be staged in Sunrise, Florida – home of the Panthers – two Boston denizens expect to have their name called in the top-three come late June.

A great fuss has been made over Connor McDavid – the so-called heir-apparent to Sidney Crosby – and Boston University centre Jack Eichel, yet lost in the shuffle is another prodigy who plays for rival Boston College.

His anonymity could be a result of his self-effacing nature and it could have a lot to do with this being the most anticipated NHL Draft since Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan went one-two in 2005.

But, if it were any other year, 6’3”, 205-lb defenceman Noah Hanifin wouldn’t be sharing the headlines – he’d be dominating them.

The lack of attention doesn’t bother Hanifin, who played alongside Eichel last year at the United States National Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Both hail from Boston suburbs – Hanifin from Norwood and Eichel, North Chelmsford. Both were prep sensations early in high school, both opted to return home to play college hockey and both are good friends off the ice.

“Between the glass there are no friends, but off the ice we don’t have a rivalry at all,” said Hanifin honestly. “We don’t talk about hockey when we’re away from the rink. We hang out and talk about everything else.”

Despite their link, Hanifin is his own talent and it’s been that way since seven or eight years old when the coaches and spectators filling Boston area rinks noticed something different about Noah.

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Playing for the legendary Boston institution known as the South Shore Kings, coaches and scouts began approaching Bob Hanifin, Noah’s father, about his son’s talents.

“At first, we just wanted to keep him busy and keep him active,” said the elder Hanifin.

“Noah has always been a good athlete, but we didn’t know it would turn out like this if you know what I mean?!”

Four years passed by, and the then forward Hanifin’s skills made precipitous gains while playing at St. Sebastian’s – an all boy’s school located in Needham, Massachusetts.

“When he was 11 or 12 my wife Tina still had no idea how good he was,” Hanifin joked through his strong Boston accent.

“She couldn’t go to many of the games with our other two children (Cole and Lilly) playing sports, but she figured it out pretty shortly after.”

Tina came to that realization when St. Sebastian’s varsity hockey coach, Jim McCann, asked the eighth grader to play with guys 16 and 17 years old.

“Two things are important for a kid like Noah,” McCann began. “First, you need dominate at your competition level, and second, you need to be hungry to continually challenge yourself. Noah’s done both.”

McCann, with several years of coaching experience, admits Hanifin is the best player he’s ever coached and knows Hanifin be successful at every level of hockey.

“Noah is a better person than he is a hockey player,” McCann continued. “And that’s saying something.”

“He’ll succeed because he’ll never think he’s better than anybody else and he’ll continue to try and improve his game.”

By sophomore year, Hanifin proved too good to remain in high school hockey, making a move to the next level imminent.

The decision was hard, but after a lot of thought, the Hanifin family decided to send Noah to the USNTDP – the same program which churned out NHL stars Patrick Kane, Jack Johnson, Seth Jones and Cam Fowler.

“It was the hardest decision our family ever had to make,” said Bob Hanifin. “St. Sebastian’s is a great school. It’s great academically and provides an amazing, well-knit environment for the boys.”

“I really can’t put into words how hard it was to pull him away from that.”

To Noah, the move was incredibly different – admitting it was the hardest thing he’s ever done.

“It was the biggest adjustment and hardest adversity I’ve ever faced in my life. So tough to leave such close family and friends,” said Hanifin.

But, despite the initial hardship, the move was necessary to augment Noah’s hockey prospects.

“From a pure hockey standpoint it was a no-brainer. He had to go to next level and the national team was the perfect environment,” Bob Hanifin explained.

“Speaking to everyone, the national program really looks after the kids. We weren’t concerned about him losing anything personally leaving St. Sebastian’s.”

“We knew he had to play at a higher level.”

In one full year with the program, Hanifin put up big numbers for a defenseman – 45 points in 59 games while playing USHL opponents and international tournaments.

“The highest praise I’ve ever received is being named captain of the national team,” Hanifin said proudly. “It was amazing that my coaches thought so highly of me, but also humbling. I realized I’d have to work even harder after the nomination.”

In fact, Hanifin captained the United States to gold at last year’s U18 World Championship in Finland.

Hanifin’s five points in seven games, helped lead the U.S. its fifth gold medal at the tournament in the past six years.

Following last year’s outstanding success, Hanifin hit Boston College’s Chestnut Hill campus, ready to make his mark on Division I hockey as a 17 year-old.

In fact, Hanifin should be in his senior year of high school, but earned enough credit to join Boston College early.

Playing for BC brings about an extra sense of pride for the Hanifin family. Jim Hanifin, Noah’s Grandfather, graduated from BC in 1957 and brought his son Bob and grandson to games as both generations grew up.

Now turning 80, Jim gets to see Noah on the blueline for the Eagles.

He’s the second youngest player to ever wear a Boston College sweater, and he’s impressed early playing against competitors five and six years older than him.

“It gets overwhelming sometimes,” Hanifin confided. “Some of these guys are 24 and I’m 17. But, when you’re on the ice you have to get that out of your head and just think about playing well and being confident.”

Hanifin has every reason to be confident – given an “A” rating by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service prior to this season. He was just one of 32 draft eligible players to receive the prestigious ranking and only six other defenseman received the same grade.

In his own words, Hanifin says he likes to model his game after Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith and Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup winner, Drew Doughty.

“Both skate extremely well and constantly move their feet on defense,” Hanifin said excitedly. “They know the right time to jump in the play and how to manage the entire sheet of ice.”

Hanifin hasn’t arrived just yet. The college freshman still has areas of improvement before he can even begin fathoming the NHL life.

First, Hanifin must fill out his frame.

At 6’3”, 205 pounds simply aren’t enough.

“Physically I need to bulk up,” Hanifin admitted. “I focused on that over the summer. I work out a couple times a week, get the right nutrition and put the right amount of calories in my body.”

“My wife is always yelling at him to eat more,” Noah’s father said. “But, it’s hard for a super active kid like that to put on weight when he’s just 17.”

Hanifin also says that he and Greg Brown, his defensive coach at BC, are also working on his shot.

“Individually, I’m really working on my shot,” Noah said. “As you go up in levels the game gets faster and faster, so it’s harder and harder to get shots through.”

And, before the much-heralded 2015 NHL Draft is staged, Hanifin has other aspirations for himself.

“My goals are our team’s goals,” he said emphatically. “We want to win the Beanpot tournament and win the Frozen Four in Boston in front of our home fans and take the National Championship.”

Another college tradition is sending players to the World Junior Championship, which rival Canada hosts this year.

Hanifin wasn’t originally invited to the evaluation camp over the summer because of his under-aged status, but was included on the initial 30-man roster constructed by head coach Mark Osiecki and USA Hockey.

“Wearing the sweater at that tournament would be an honour,” Hanifin exclaimed. “It’ll be tough to make the team, but the best way for that to happen at this point is to help Boston College win.”

Beyond the responsibilities of school and hockey, Hanifin genuinely tries to avoid getting caught up in the hype of the upcoming draft.

“I don’t think of other players,” Hanifin said openly.

“It’s my draft year and I’m going to make the most of it. I’m going to make myself the most competitive I can be to help a team. It’s doesn’t matter if I go one, two, three, four or five. The goal is to play in the NHL one day.”

“Just look at this draft class,” he laughed.

“Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. It’s just an honour to be mentioned with those guys. There’s nothing to get jealous about. It would be really hard for anyone to go first overall in this one.”

Regardless, the fact remains that many project Hanifin to be selected third overall, behind McDavid and Eichel – making it two Americans in the top-three.

Describing what that moment might be like for the family, Bob Hanifin said. “It would be surreal. Hopefully everything works out the way it’s supposed to.”

“He’s worked his butt off and he deserves whatever he gets. He’s a good kid and loves hockey. Everyone in our family is proud of him.”


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