The 2015 NHL Draft is being called one of the deepest classes in decades. The Edmonton Oilers will likely select Connor McDavid with the first overall selection, and the Buffalo Sabres will almost certainly snag Jack Eichel. That leaves Arizona in a prime position to land top defensive prospect, Noah Hanifin.
Hanifin is hands down the best defensive prospect in the 2015 class. Many say he is just as, if not more, gifted than last years top overall pick, and fellow defenseman, Aaron Ekblad.
Standing at 6’2, Hanifin is the ideal size for an NHL blue-liner. Scouts say he is a true two-way player, and is able to move efficiently on both ends of ice.
“For an old-school guy, he’s maybe like a Rob Blake kind of guy,” said one Western Conference to Yahoo! Sports. “That big, that strong can skate, can do it both ways. Just one of those big horses, every good team in the league has one or more of those guys.”
Arizona is in desperate need of tough, physical players. The team traded away All-Star defenseman, Keith Yandle, mid-season and could use a second top-tier defender to pair with Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Going defensive would be a smart move for the Coyotes. As mentioned before, they do need to pair Ekman-Larsson with a big physical defender. The team also has an abundance of wingers on its current team and farm system, so a defensive prospect makes a great deal of sense for the them at the third pick.
If the Coyotes choose to draft Hanifin they would be looking pretty for the future. With Ekman-Larsson and Hanifin anchoring the team’s defensive positions, Arizona can continue its focus on the wings, as they boast Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Lucas Lessio, and Henrik Samuelsson as the primary scorers.
It’s not a forgone conclusion that Arizona draft Hanifin. They could decide more depth at forward is the best option. As a result, the Coyotes could decide to draft Dylan Strome or Mitch Marner.
However, the opportunity to take a prime defensive prospect in Hanifin might be too tempting for the team to pass up. It’s unclear what the thinking in Arizona might be, but the choice seems to be pretty clear.