Once adverse to drafting defensemen in the first round, the Carolina Hurricanes have made a habit of it in recent seasons.
The team’s fifth-overall selection of Noah Hanifin marks the third time it has chosen a defensemen with its last four first-round picks. They had previously drafted Ryan Murphy, the 12th overall pick in 2011 who has played 62 games in Charlotte, and Haydn Fleury, last year’s seventh overall pick who scored his first professional goal in Charlotte last April.
In this case, the selection likely had less to do with the philosophy of drafting a particular position than it did it the availability of Hanifin, who was widely expected to go at No. 3 with no shortage of teams willing to trade up for the opportunity to do so. However, selections made by Phoenix and Toronto to draft Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner, respectively, after the expected top two of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel resulted in Hanifin falling to Carolina.
A 6-foot-2, 203 pound native of Norwood, MA, Hanifin scored 23 points as a freshman at Boston College last season.
“He’s a solid defender,” Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes’ chief amateur scout, told CarolinaHurricanes.com prior to the draft. “He can move the puck and skate the puck out. He seems to be a solid character guy.
“There’s not much not to like about Noah Hanifin. He should play in the NHL for a long, long time.”
As a college product, Hanifin is not bound by the age restrictions placed on players drafted from the Canadian college ranks and could technically play in the AHL next season should he decide to leave school. However, unless he firmly believes he can make Carolina’s team this fall – a distinct possibility given his pedigree as a high pick in a deep draft – he may very well choose to continue his education.
Hanifin joins an impressive cadre of young defensemen in the Carolina system – a group led by 2015 NHL All-Star Justin Faulk, a former Checker, Murphy and Fleury. In addition to a handful of Checkers from last season’s team that showed significant promise – Trevor Carrick in particular – incoming rookie Brett Pesce and junior prospect Roland McKeown, who both made their professional debuts in Charlotte this past spring, have NHL potential.
The Hurricanes are also no strangers to the Boston College pipeline. Checkers center Patrick Brown and goaltender John Muse are both alums, as is 2009 second-round pick Brian Dumoulin, who was later traded to Pittsburgh.