Noah Hanifin’s dreams are coming true sooner than he ever expected.
Originally, the 17-year-old defenseman was slated to be a part of Boston College’s 2015-16 recruiting class. But over this past summer, the storied program decided to accelerate his admission into the university and include him on this year’s hockey roster.
As a result, Hanifin, who is eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, will become the youngest player ever to don an Eagles uniform when he takes the ice for his first game in October. Despite that accomplishment, Hanifin is quick to credit others with his rapid ascension to collegiate hockey.
“A lot of it has to do with the people that have surrounded me my whole life. My parents and my coaches growing up were second to none,” Hanifin said. “They really gave me a chance to develop as a player and a person. I was able to come to BC a year early because I’ve been surrounded by great mentors my whole life.”
Before he plays his first game for the Eagles, Hanifin will have another chance to impress the scouting community when he suits up in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on Sept. 25. Top American prospects Jack Eichel, Colin White, Chase Pearson and Joseph Cecconi are among those also slated to participate.
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“It’s a once in a lifetime experience to get the opportunity to play against the best players in the country at my age group,” he said. “Just knowing a lot of the guys that’ll be there, I really expect it to be a competitive and high-tempo game. It should be a lot fun.”
Boston holds a special place in Hanifin’s heart, having been born and raised in Massachusetts. He’s happy to be able to spend some more time there this season while at Boston College.
“Growing up in Boston, it’s really easy to fall in love with the game,” Hanifin said.
Hanifin’s cousin introduced him to skating and street hockey at ponds, rinks and parking lots across his hometown of Norwood when he was three-years-old. By the time he was seven, he linked up with the South Shore Kings, where he continued to play until he was 13.
All the while, Hanifin was developing a love for Beantown hockey. He lists longtime Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque among his favorite players and has taken the time to study the games of some all-time greats.
“I tend to watch a lot of highlights of Nicklas Lidstrom and Ray Bourque, especially Bourque,” Hanifin said. “Bourque was my dad’s idol when he watched the Bruins so I really like to watch highlights of him.”
Taking into account his roots, fandom and familial history, it should come as little surprise that Hanifin decided to remain in Massachusetts for the next step in his young career. He committed to Boston College as a high school freshman because it’s close to home and he has some deep family roots planted there.
“My grandfather went to BC growing up, so I went to BC games and knew that I really wanted to go there,” Hanifin said. “It was always my dream to play at BC; I never really imagined going anywhere else.”
In addition to his humble nature, Hanifin, who is currently listed at 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, possesses a hunger to get better. While he believes that his skating and hockey sense are strengths of his game, he’s more eager to discuss the parts of his game he’d like to improve upon.
“Every summer I’m trying to work on all parts of my game, but this summer in particular I wanted to work on my shot,” Hanifin said. “As you progress to higher levels, it gets harder and harder to get your shot through. I’ve tried to work on my movement along the blue line, getting pucks to the net, and also increasing the speed and accuracy of my shot.”
That willingness to get better, combined with his size, skating ability and skill, has drawn the attention of NHL scouts. While official prospect rankings for the 2015 draft class have yet to emerge, Hanifin is already expected to be selected somewhere in the top 10.
Despite those lofty expectations and collective praise, Hanifin steers clear of media speculation.
“I try to stay away from it for sure. My responsibility right now is to help Boston College win games and that’s all I’m really focused on right now,” he said. “Hopefully, if I play well enough the draft will kind of take care of itself, but as of right now, I’m just focused on BC and what I can do the help this team.”