As many Ottawa 67’s fans can attest, defenceman Noel Hoefenmayer deserves an NHL opportunity. Over his five-year junior career, Hoefenmayer has evolved into one of the best offensive defencemen in the Ontario Hockey League. Having been drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the fourth round, 108th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, he has yet to be signed to an entry-level deal. Due to the fact that they didn’t sign him in time, the Coyotes no longer hold his rights. Many people believe it’s only a matter of time before he makes an NHL impact, though.
With the CHL announcing that they have canceled the rest of the regular season and playoffs for all three major junior leagues, Hoefenmayer’s junior career came to an unlikely close. With his sights set on turning pro next year, here is why Hoefenmayer should get an NHL look.
NHL-Calibre Offensive Game
Throughout his years on the 67’s, Hoefenmayer has continued to expand his offensive game. When he first entered the OHL as a 16-year-old, he was given limited minutes and struggled to make any offensive impact. However, his first full year in the OHL was a different story. In 2016-17, he scored 14 goals and added 26 assists for 40 points in 62 games played.
As the years have gone on, Hoefenmayer’s game has continued to develop. Fast forward to this season, and his offensive output completely obliterated his previous career-high. In 58 games played, he scored 26 goals and added 56 assists for 82 points.
What makes Hoefenmayer’s game so dangerous is his ability to control the play and slow down the pace of the game. He uses his smooth skating ability and elite IQ to make sharp, fast plays before anyone else can anticipate what is going on. He loves to set up teammates in the slot and makes plays look easier than they actually are.
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Hoefenmayer looks like a modern-day NHL power-play quarterback. He loves to take control of the play and is a proven leader wherever he goes. With the 67’s, he served as an assistant captain in the final two seasons of his junior career. He was known as a vocal leader throughout the dressing room and all of his teammates respected him.
When asked about Hoefenmayer at the time, Coyotes director of player scouting Tim Bernhardt said, “There’s some offense with him. He loves to get involved in the play and is very proactive from the back and jumps into the play and recognizes when to.”
Underrated Defensive Game
While most OHL fans know what Hoefenmayer brings to the table offensively, many people look past his defensive capabilities. While earlier in his career, he seemed to struggle with his defensive game, he has seemingly turned a corner for the better.
This past season, Hoefenmayer showed that he could indeed play a 200-foot game. While in the defensive zone, he makes a solid first pass and is capable of hitting his forwards in stride through the neutral zone. He is also really good at reading passing lanes and makes sure the front of the net is clear of any danger.
Over the past two seasons, Hoefenmayer has been near the top of the league in plus/minus. In 2018-19, he finished the season with a plus-45. In 2019-20, he finished the season with a plus-52. While most people would say that this stat is not a good way to judge someone’s defensive capabilities, the OHL does not keep track of advanced statistics. He proved that he could be a positive factor for his team at both ends of the ice and his stats support his play.
With the game continually shifting towards speed and skill, Hoefenmayer has all the makings of a future NHL defenceman. Although he will need to add more weight to his frame, he should be ready for the NHL after a few more years of development.
Should an NHL team give him a shot, Hoefenmayer could become something special. With his quick decision making on the backend, I could see him becoming a top-pair defenceman in the future. He has all the makings of a power-play quarterback and should provide nothing but value in the future. Many teams could certainly do worse than taking a chance on someone like Hoefenmayer.