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Hanifin Readies for First NHL Game

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
NASHVILLE – “The Carolina Hurricanes are proud to select, from Boston College, Noah Hanifin,” Ron Francis announced at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015.

Fast forward 105 days, and Hanifin will be making his NHL debut in the Hurricanes’ season opener in Nashville.

The 18-year-old rookie sipped on a drink after his first morning skate, appearing cool, calm and collected less than seven hours away from his first appearance in an NHL regular-season match.

“I’m excited. It was good to get out there and get a little skate in with the guys,” he said. “It’s the first one for me and the team this year, so it should be a pretty exciting night.”

If he’s nervous, it didn’t show.

“I’m just going to try to go out and play,” he said. “It will be pretty surreal going out there for the first time, but after the first few shifts, it should just sink in and be hockey.”

Head coach Bill Peters isn’t worried about his young blue-liner, noting his maturity in the way he sees and thinks the game.

“He’s an intelligent, humble kid. He’s been excellent for us. He’s going to have some moments and some situations he’s not comfortable with, but that’s part of it,” Peters said Tuesday in Raleigh. “He’s got man strength at 18. He’s good in his battles, he’s coachable and very intelligent as far as reading the play.”

Though he was unavailable to play in the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., Hanifin logged big minutes in the preseason, at times skating alongside Justin Faulk on the team’s top pair and playing against the opponents’ top line.

It was a learning experience and an adjustment in making the leap to the highest level of hockey in the world.

“For me, it was just the speed and strength of the game. Coming from college, it’s just another level,” Hanifin said. “The decisions are going to be much quicker, and everyone is a lot stronger on the puck.”

In his NHL debut, Hanifin, sporting the No. 5 on the back of his sweater, will pair with another first-round defensive selection, Ryan Murphy.

“He’s a pretty responsible guy back there, so I think he’s got it under control,” Murphy said. “It’s a big night for him, and I’m happy to be playing with him for his first game.”

Murphy was in Hanifin’s shoes not too long ago – February 21, 2013 to be exact – albeit under slightly different circumstances. Murphy, playing with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League at the time, was a mid-season emergency recall.

“It was a long day. I traveled all day, got to the rink and got my first game in. It was crazy,” he said. “It was pretty much trial-by-fire that game. It was get there, get your stuff on and do your best. It was a lot of fun.”

Hanifin’s situation is a bit different, having had weeks of on and off-ice training in hopes of cracking the Opening Night roster.

And here he is. Does Murphy have any advice for his defensive partner?

“It’s going to be a long career for him. He’s a great player, so take it all in,” Murphy said.

“And good luck to us,” he added with a laugh.

Among the watching eyes on Hanifin in his debut will be those of his parents, brother, sister and cousin, who will all be in attendance at Bridgestone Arena. A special night, indeed, the simultaneous culmination and new beginning of years of hard work, learning and dedication.

“Especially when I got drafted and signed, this was my goal,” Hanifin said. “I wanted to play for this team. Obviously I still have a lot left to prove, and I’m still really young, but I’m excited to get things going.”

Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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