Noah Hanifin is an All-Star. The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman was announced Wednesday as having been selected to play in the 2018 NHL Honda All-Star Game. He is the only member of the Hurricanes squad to have been selected and, frankly, is a bit of a surprise.
Not a surprise from the standpoint of his ability, but because of his relatively short tenure in the NHL when contrasted with some others on his team that could have been selected.
The Hurricanes’ announcement that Hanifin had been selected as an all-star noted,
Hanifin, 20, leads Hurricanes defensemen in goals (7), assists (14) and points (21). The Boston native ranks eighth among NHL blueliners in goals (7). A product of the United States National Team Development Program, Hanifin has represented his country at a number of international tournaments, including the 2015 World Junior Championship and the 2016 and 2017 IIHF World Championships. He won gold at the 2014 U18 World Junior Championships, ranking tied for second among tournament defensemen in scoring.
In what has been a relatively short career, Hanifin can now add, “NHL All-Star” to his growing list of accomplishments.
Age Not an Issue for Canes All-Stars
Of course, tenure does not seem to matter as much in this version of the NHL. In just his third season at 20 years old, Hanifin is following in the footsteps of fellow defenseman Justin Faulk. In 2015, at the age of 22, Faulk was selected to his first of three NHL All-star games and was seen as the young, rising star on this Hurricanes team. In fact, Faulk also represented the Hurricanes in 2012 at All-Star Weekend as a rookie participant. Faulk, for all intents and purposes, has been the face of the franchise as the only team’s invitee to the NHL All-Star Game in the past few years.
His play this season has not been All-Star caliber. In fact, it has been very much un-Faulk-like. So far this season, he has four goals and 14 assists. Certainly, as a defenseman, he is not expected to be a leading scorer on the team, but in the not-so-distant past, Faulk has been a reliable teammate, especially dangerous on the power play. Thus far, he has one power play goal.
Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters made Faulk one of the team’s two captains, wearing the ‘C’ when the team is on the road for the first half of the season, and at home the second half. Faulk has always been a team leader, especially as a “veteran” presence in the locker room, even though he’s still relatively young at 25. It’s hard to believe he already has six seasons under his belt and three NHL All-Star game appearances.
It will be intriguing to see how the rest of the season and beyond goes for Faulk. Will he catch fire and return to form as a legitimate offensive threat that teams need to worry about scoring? Will he be traded at some point as some have suggested? Faulk has value that is huge for the Hurricanes’ organization, and that’s his example and leadership to the younger players. While he may not have turned heads this year as far as the NHL All-Star Game goes, he’s worth his weight in gold for what he brings to the team.
Like folks yelling surprise at the unsuspecting person whose party it is, the hockey world screamed,”surprise” and announced Hanifin as the Hurricanes’ representative to the NHL’s 2018 Honda All-Star Game. He has seven goals and 14 assists so far this season and is playing very well on defense for the team.
Expectations have been high on Hanifin since he was first drafted fifth overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. For the most part, he has fulfilled or exceeded those expectations. He is still young and should continue to develop to the point where being selected as an All-Star is the norm for him. (For a comparison of Hanifin and Mitch Marner, selected fourth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in that same 2015 NHL Entry Draft, click here: Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner or Hurricanes’ Noah Hanifin?)
The draft class in which Hanifin was drafted is filled with excellence, with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, of course, leading the pack. Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres was selected second and is already a franchise player in Western New York. The future of the NHL is in excellent hands when the Class of 2015 is reviewed, and players like Hanifin are growing into the expectations that led to their high draft selection.
Hanifin’s selection to play in the All-Star game really should come as no surprise. Hanifin has worked hard and deserves the accolade. Is he the best D-man in the NHL? Of course not. But, does he have an amazing upside and is already showing that the future for him is huge? Absolutely.