Serron Noel wants to be feared.
A second-round pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2018 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound forward said he's working to model his game after the likes of NHL veterans such as Wayne Simmonds and "maybe to a lesser degree" Tom Wilson, big players that are known both for their offensive skills and physicality.
"I look at Wayne Simmonds, how powerful and dominant he was and how much fear he made other players scared of him every night," Noel told FloridaPanthers.com. "It's pretty incredible… They obviously play a really hard game, and I kind of want to model myself a little bit after that. But I also think that I have a lot of offensive potential as well. I think I can be a goal scorer in the league as well."
In the season since being drafted, Noel's game has grown by leaps and bounds. The 18-year-old was recently named the top forward on the OHL's Oshawa Generals, finishing the season with career-highs in goals (34), assists (47) and points (81) in 68 games. His 81 points also ranked him 22nd in the league.
But even on nights when the offense wasn't there, Noel succeeded in making an impact.
"I was just working on earning the coach's trust and trying to bring that level of consistency," Noel said of his overall approach this past season. "I just wanted to be a factor or have an impact on the game every single time that I was on the ice. That's something I've been really trying to focus and dial in on."
When asked what he believes he needs to work on in order to prepare himself for the NHL, Noel said he was given the perfect blueprint this past summer during his first training camp, which proved to be quite the eye-opener. From sharing a locker and chatting with Aaron Ekblad to watching all of the minutia that went into Aleksander Barkov's daily routine, the contrast between junior and pro hockey was apparent.
Noel also got his first taste of NHL action, suiting up against Nashville during a preseason doubleheader.
"To see Barkov and all those guys and all the little things that they do in practice and stuff to get better and how focused everyone was there and how professional everyone was compared to junior, it's just really an eye-opener," Noel said. "I think what the biggest help or best experience for me was probably playing in that game there. To see the [Filip] Forsbergs and [Ryan] Johansens of the league, how they dominate and how they play, it really helped me out to see the level that I need to go to."
With another season of junior hockey behind him, Noel said he's "really excited to showcase everything that I've learned this year" when he returns to South Florida for another series of camps this summer.
"This summer is going to be a huge summer for me," Noel said. "I need to focus on my nutrition and diet and try and get some muscle mass and get a little bit bigger and stronger just so I'm able to use my size a little bit better than I've been using it. Obviously playing against younger kids in the OHL, I haven't needed to be super strong to dominate along the boards. That said, at the next level being 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds isn't going to work for me. I'm definitely going to have to put some more muscle on."
When the Panthers look at Noel, they don't necessarily see raw talent, but rather a wealth of potential.
"Because he's so tall and lean -- he's such a big person -- you're certainly waiting to see what that turns out to be," Panthers director of amateur scouting Jason Bukala said. "He's not a finished product yet, but what you have right now is a big body who skates. He's fast, but he handles the puck exceptionally well. He's got really good hands. I'm shocked that he fell to us where we got him [in the draft]."
Living in Canada, Noel isn't able to catch too many Panthers games on television, but he does keep up with the team pretty regularly on NHL.com, perusing box scores and reading updates. And in looking at names like Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, he sees players that he hopes to one day call teammates.
"It's motivating to try and be a part of that group and come up and help the team win," he said.
Earlier this month, Noel took one step closer to his dream of playing in the NHL, putting pen to paper on his three-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers on March 8.
"It means the world to me," he said. "I'm just really excited to be a part of it, and hopefully one day bring a championship to our team."
On that same day, he was also surprised to receive a call from Panthers general manager Dale Tallon.
"I was really excited to get a call from him," Noel said. "It just shows how the Panthers go about their business and stuff. Having the GM call you is a pretty special feeling. I'm really excited to be a part a of this organization."
In the future, the next big call Noel receives from Tallon could be the one that brings him to the NHL.
"They're really positive," Noel said of the Panthers development staff. "They help me a lot and give me a lot of insight on things I need to work on, things that they see on the ice that will help me and will eventually get me to work my way to getting to make the team. It's a lot of helpful advice, for sure."