The 2014-15 NHL season saw the greatest tank battle since the British and Germans fought their epic at El Alamein in 1942 end with a surprise entrant taking victory back to Edmonton. Left smoldering in the settling dust were the Arizona Coyotes and their shattered dreams of, at a minimum, gaining the elite talent of Jack Eichel.
So, with the third overall pick in the Litter Box Cats mock draft, the Arizona Coyotes select:
Noah Hanifin - D Boston College
The staff at www.hockeysfuture.com ranks Arizona's farm system as 13th best in the NHL, and notes that the team is lacking in size in the forward group, depth in the defensive prospect group after their top two, and in net. The complete strengths and weaknesses are listed as follows:
Strengths: The Arizona Coyotes have a strong group of centers, with Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson being the two major players of note. Tobias Rieder, Lucas Lessio, and Brendan Perlini also make up a good top layer of wingers. Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy are two very strong defensive prospects. The top-end talent is there in many positions and close to being NHL-ready.
Weaknesses: The forward group, overall, is a bit undersized. Only a few stand at or over 6’0″, and the Coyotes have instead opted for the speed and skill approach over the prototypical power forward. There is a major drop in talent on the blue line past Gormley and Murphy. Thankfully the defensive position is pretty well stacked at the NHL level. The goaltending pool is not particularly inspiring, with Mark Visentin the primary prospect in net.
Arizona general manager Don Maloney is an astute team-builder, who has done well during his tenure in the desert with very limited (likely better referred to as "extremely" limited) resources. He knows enough to select this draft's top available player at the number three pick, who happens to also be this year's top defensive prospect. Good defensemen are exceptionally expensive in the free agent market, and the best of them are typically locked up by their teams long-term before reaching free agency. Thus, the wise team drafts its own top quality rearguards and spends the time necessary to develop them. The Coyotes will likely be no different.
Noah Hanifin is a 6'3 200 lb. native of Norwood, Massachusetts who recently completed his freshman season for the Boston College Eagles. Hanifin was the second youngest player to play for Boston College. The left-handed shot put up totals of 5 goals and 18 assists in 37 games. Ben Kerr, at lastwordonsports.com, had this to say about Hanifin:
The best defenceman in this draft, Noah Hanifin is big, strong, and mobile. He is a very good skater, with very good speed in both directions, a quick first step and excellent acceleration. He has high quailty edgework and pivoting ability to quickly change directions and as a result is able to cover a ton of ice. His stride is powerful and he shows good balance, making him hard to knock off the puck, and helping him win board battles, and clear the crease.
Kerr compared Hanifin favorably to the Panthers own Aaron Ekblad, and completed his analysis with this high praise: "He has the potential to be a #1 franchise defining defenceman. In terms of style (not a talent comparison) I would compare Hanifin to Ryan McDonagh." Futureconsiderations.com profiled the young defenseman as follows:
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. (August 2014)
Arizona is unlikely to pass this player up as blue chip blue lines are not easy to come by.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are up next. While you wait, check out some footage of Hanifin in action: