CHICAGO — Noah Hanifin wants to play in the NHL next season. That’s his goal.
That being said, if he’s drafted by a team that feels he should spend a bit more time developing his game, he’ll take the team’s advice. The Boston College defensemen feels he’s ready, but he also knows the NHL is a different beast.
“Making that jump, you have to be very mature,” Hanifin said Monday. “In college, it’s fun and stuff, you’re playing with your buddies. For some guys, that’s kind of the end of it. They just want to get their degree. If you want to make that jump, you have to realize what you’re getting into. If you’re going to take someone’s spot, he could have a family, kids. It’s a big deal. It’s a business. That takes a while for some guys to grasp that idea.”
“I think I am at that mindset right now,” he added. “What I got at B.C. this year was great for me. I felt like I got a lot better. If a team wants me to go back and do that again, I’m not going to be mad about that. I’ll be happy to keep going back and working hard. I have plenty of time. I’m 18 years old.”
The list of 18-year-old defensemen who’ve had big seasons in the NHL is a fairly short one. Phil Housley did for the Sabres in 1982-83. Ditto for Bobby Orr with the Bruins in 1966-67. And, of course, Aaron Ekblad did it this past season for the Panthers.
“I like watching him a lot,” Hanifin said of Ekblad. “He’s an offensive defenseman, but he’s a big, strong guy. He played a ton of minutes in Florida. It just shows, if you have what it takes, you can do it at that age. It’s not impossible to do.”
But many of the top blue-liners you see playing today needed more seasoning. Duncan Keith, to name just one, was drafted in 2002; his first season with the Blackhawks wasn’t until 2005-06.
“No matter what happens, you have to have a belief in yourself,” said Hanifin. “You have to know everything happens for a reason.”
Related: Difference of opinion: Craig Button has Hanifin 12th on final draft rankings