I was on record (draft week Hockeybuzz blogs and Twitter) with a slight preference for landing Hanifin at #5 over Marner (and by a slightly larger margin over Strome), so I am obviously thrilled that he fell to #5.
My mantra this summer is “skating above all else.” I have a half-written blog that I will finish and post once things settle down with the free agent frenzy that starts on Wednesday that challenges the notion that size is the be all end all in today’s NHL. I say it is skating and skill, and Noah Hanifin projects to be exactly that. Every time some mentions Noah Hanifin and Scott Niedermayer in the same sentence, I get this warm feeling in the part of my heart where Canes hockey lives. I will save my thoughts on exactly what Noah Hanifin means for 2015-16 for a later blog, but I love what it means for two or three years from now. After being light on high-end defense prospects for years, Ron Francis has stocked the system pretty well and pretty quickly over the past two drafts. The Canes now have two high first round picks (Fleury is the other), a second rounder (McKeown acquired from Los Angeles in the Sekera trade) and local kid Josh Wesley who was picked in the fourth round in 2015. When you add Justin Faulk who is only 23 years old and signed for five years, the Canes suddenly have a path to building a very good blue line without having to do it via the death-dying, overpriced free agent market each summer.
I think the key with Hanifin is patience and charting the best course to maximize what he can do in two or three years. That might not necessarily match up with what is best for the team specifically for 2015-16. In this modern-day NHL, this can be incredibly tricky. Elite young prospects command more ability to dictate their own terms for how they are developed, and there is also significant influence from family and agents which can somethings be helpful and sometimes not (reference Jack Johnson situation). It is important for Ron Francis to navigate the right path and balance to what Hanifin and his advisors want, what is best for the team now and what is best for both Hanifin and the team longer term.
That all probably starts either at or just before the Canes rookie camp in mid-July.