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by Zac Hirschbeck / Buffalo Sabres

Following Thursday’s morning skate, Noah Hanifin spoke of his preference in remaining amongst the “shadows” of the media’s draft hype and speculation. However, with more games similar to his performance in the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, it won’t be long before Hanifin becomes a household name for hockey fans across the country.

The 17-year-old defenseman, who will be playing for Boston College this season, finished the game with a stat line that would leave many suggesting that the Massachusetts-native struggled. However, despite being held off the scoresheet and finishing minus-three, Hanifin stood out amongst his peers in a losing effort.

“I think I played alright, but I think I could’ve played a lot better,” Hanifin said. “It’s tough when you’re not familiar playing with certain guys.”

In a scoreless first period, Hanifin had a few moments that demonstrated the ability that has already drawn the attention of scouts and media. One moment in particular came during Team Olczyk’s second power play of the period.

After picking up the puck just behind the red line, Hanifin glided down the right side of the ice, toe-dragged his way between two defenders, and dropped a pass to an oncoming teammate. While Team Grier goalie Luke Opilka denied the subsequent shot, Hanifin’s skating ability, offensive talent and hockey sense created a point-blank scoring chance out of seemingly nothing.

In the second period, Hanifin showed off his equally capable defensive skills. Although he was on the ice for two Team Grier goals, the 6-foot-2 Hanifin broke up several opposing rushes with his quick stick, and sprawled to break up a dangerous looking two-on-one.

Hanifin’s combination of offense and defense, along with his veteran-like poise and composure, have many speculating a Top 10 draft slot for the defenseman. In fact, TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently slotted Hanifin as his third-rated prospect, behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. While some players may enjoy reading the high praise that comes with their on-ice play, Hanifin prefers to avoid it.

“I try not to think about it. The draft is a long way away and a lot can happen in a year,” Hanifin said. “As of right now, I’m just focusing on getting better every day and helping Boston College win hockey games.”

Hanifin will have a tough time staying in the shadows at hockey-crazy Boston College, including a nationally-televised game on NBC Sports Network against Jack Eichel and Boston University on Friday, November 7 at 8 p.m..

What a game that will be.

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