On Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes prospects who went 3-0 in the round robin play will play in the championship game of the Traverse City NHL prospects tournament. I wrote a brief recap from the first 2 games HERE and then a recap of the third game HERE.
My count says that the Hurricanes prospect roster features seven players who were selected in either the first or the second round. It also features a few other mid-round picks who have tracked well and are considered promising NHL prospects at this point in their development. Playing largely against players their own age, those higher-end prospects are expected to be at the top of the class in this tourney.
But the prospect tourney also offers the chance for wild cards selected late in the draft from where few NHL players emerge to boost their stock. Hopefully I do not jinx him by writing this article before the tourney finale, but I am beginning to think that the Hurricanes found a diamond in the rough with their seventh round pick in the 2016 NHL draft.
Why he was available in the seventh round
Before the start of the 2015-16 season, many scouts and analysts had Noah Carroll as a mid-round pick to be drafted as early as the third round.
But he had a tough 2015-16 season. I think it is important to understand the circumstances surrounding that as a starting point for understanding why he was available in the seventh round and why that could turn out to be a steal. Brock Otten from OHL Prospects spoke about his challenging situation as the number one defenseman on a team that struggled in our ‘back to school post on Noah Carroll.
Basically, 2015-16 was a tough year because Carroll was thrown into a very difficult situation and encountered some growing pains as a result. Had he picked up the team and put it on his back, his draft stock would have grown, and he would have been a top half of the draft selection. But to write him off based on growing pains as an 18-year old could prove to be very premature. Might the challenge of 2015-16 make him stronger in the long run? The Carolina Hurricanes were willing to spend their final 2016 draft pick to find out.
Noah Carroll’s skill set
Carroll is every bit a new NHL defenseman in terms of raw skill set. In the same article referenced above, his coach Jarrod Skalde through out the terms “elite skating” and “effortless stride.” In today’s NHL, I continue to say that it is skating above all else. Carroll has that. In addition, he has the ability to generate offense from the back end. Though his development might still be raw, his skill set is very much that of the other young Canes defensemen who can skate and contribute offensively.
Noah Carroll in Traverse City
As far as players entering the prospect tourney as a ho-hum prospect not on the list of players likely to one day play in the NHL, Noah Carroll easily takes the prize for me in terms of boosting his stock over the past few days.
Big role: When Haydn Fleury was felled by injury toward the end of the first game, Carroll was called upon to step into the top defensive pairing next to Roland McKeown for games 2, 3 and likely 4. He and the team have not missed a beat. He has been good in this expanded role.
Poise with the puck: What jumps out very quickly from watching Carroll is his skating ability and patience with the puck on his stick. He shows a very good knack for finding passing lanes and moving the puck to a teammate’s stick instead of dumping it forward.
Incredible lateral skating ability on the attack at the offensive blue line: After obtaining entry to the offensive zone, Carroll effectively uses his poise with the puck at the blue line to create. That combined with tremendous lateral mobility is a great formula for generating offense from the blue line both at even strength and on the power play. He did just that on Monday firing a shot through a screen to be tipped in by Zykov for a Hurricanes goal.
Ability to defend off the rush: After watching Carroll play well with the puck and in the offensive zone, I kept waiting for that ‘big oops’ moment that showed him to be more of a work in progress defensively which is commonly the case for young offensive defensemen. Instead, when given a couple opportunities to defend 1v1 and 2v2 on the rush, Carroll kept a tight gap and gave up nothing on the rush.
An interesting comparison: Both Jake Bean and Noah Carroll are 2016 draftees. Both are labeled as gifted offensive players who can skate and create offense. The biggest difference between the 2 is Bean’s elite first-round draft pedigree compared to Carroll’s seventh-round selection. Had I watched only today’s game without knowing which was which, it would have been easy to flip flop who was the seventh round pick and who was the first round pick. To be clear, this is not because Bean was bad. Carroll played the bigger role on the first defense pairing with Bean farther down the depth chart. Both looked good offensively with the puck on their stick but only Carroll registered a point. And I actually think Carroll was better defensively tonight. To be clear, I do not mean to say that Carroll is better than Bean based on a couple summer tourney games. But I do think the fact that the 2 looked somewhat similar today is a powerful statement as to the potential upside for Noah Carroll if he can grow and put it all together.
Looking forward to the 2016-17 season for Noah Carroll
Early indications are that the Guelph Storm will be at least moderately better this season which will put Noah Carroll is a somewhat better situation. Can Carroll use his challenges in 2015-16 as a positive springboard into the 2016-17 season? If he does, would his draft stock jump right back up to the middle rounds instantly? I look forward to hopefully seeing how Carroll looks in scrimmages and maybe even a preseason game against NHL competition and then tracking his development during the 2016-17 season.