Each day over the next month leading up to the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, held on June 22 in Dallas, we will be taking a look at the top 31 prospects available, starting with the 31st and leading up to number one.
Next in the series of prospect profiles is our 17th-ranked prospect, right wing Serron Noel.
2017–18 Team: Oshawa (OHL)
Date of Birth: August 8, 2000
Place of Birth: Ottawa, ON
Weight: 205 lbs
NHL Central Scouting Final Ranking: 10
NHL Central Scouting Midterm Ranking: 9
NHL Comparable: Blake Wheeler
Serron Noel is one of the premier power forwards of this year’s draft class. Despite coming into this season as a projected second round pick, Noel made big strides this season, solidifying himself as a high-end prospect worthy of a first round selection.
The biggest concern with young, big players is almost always their skating ability. Noel’s skating was questioned coming into the season, explaining why he was not seen as a first round prospect coming into the year. But, Noel focused on improving his skating, which paid big dividends this season, drastically improving his offensive output. While he still needs to work on improving his skating, he does have decent speed, especially considering his size. His agility and acceleration need improvement.
Perhaps Noel’s most lethal weapon is his wrist shot. It is one of, if not the most, powerful wrist shots in the draft. Noel is able to get off his wrist shot very quickly as well, making it nearly impossible to stop when placed correctly. Noel also possesses pretty good hands, allowing him to be effective close to the net as well, both with deflections and rebounds. As a result, Noel saw a big uptick in his production this season in an expanded role with Oshawa, tallying 28 goals and 53 points in 62 games, a huge improvement from his 2016–17 totals of eight goals and 21 points in 63 games.
Another of Noel’s strengths is his ability to create havoc on the forecheck. Although being a big guy, Noel is surprisingly not overly physical. Instead, Noel uses his imposing frame to force defenders into poor decisions. Additionally, Noel enjoys using his size to be effective in front of the net, though with more of a production mindset rather than a physical one. If Noel is able to increase his level of physicality, he could become an even more effective player offensively.
Noel is also a very reliable player in the defensive end. He uses his hockey sense to position himself well. His size allows him to cover a lot of ice, both with his body and his stick. Noel effectively combines his hockey sense and size to anticipate plays, step into passing or shooting lanes and cause turnovers. Again, despite his size, Noel is not a very physical player. He does not look to make big hits, whether along the boards or in open ice. He does use his size well along the boards in puck battles, which he often wins.
Implications for the Blackhawks
Though a player like Noel would be a nice addition to the Hawks’ forward group, he would likely not be a very wise pick at number eight. He will likely not be available when the Blackhawks are on the clock again with the 27th pick, so unless the Hawks trade down from eight or up from 27, Noel will likely be headed elsewhere.
Noel definitely needs more time to work on his game. His skating, although being vastly better this year, still needs work to be at an NHL level. Despite having decent hands, Noel needs to improve his stickhandling ability to be able to generate offensive opportunities for himself to maintain his production. Noel is two or three years away from the NHL, so do not expect to see him on the ice until 2020–21.
If Noel improves his skating and is able to generate offense consistently, he could become a high-end power forward in the NHL. He has the raw ability, keyword being raw. He still has a long way to come, but the improvements he made this season are highly encouraging and show how high of a ceiling he could have. While he will likely not become as high-end of an offensive threat as Blake Wheeler, he plays a similar game in the sense his focus is strictly on his skill and ability to produce rather than to be simply a physical presence with his size. Still, if he is able to round out his game and reach his potential, he could be a top-six winger with the ability to be a game-changer.
What others are saying
“Coming into the season Noel was heavily criticized for his skating. He struggled during his rookie season in 2016-17, as he seemed to be a step behind the play. While the skating is still a work in progress, it has vastly improved this season. Noel generates very good speed for a big man and has really improved his first few steps and acceleration. While his stride looks awkward, it gets him where he needs to go. If he gets a step on his man, he can really bear down and pull away on the rush. He has a powerful lower-body, giving him excellent balance. Noel can fight through checks and get to the front of the net. He is also extremely strong on the puck and controls down low on the cycle. Noel rarely loses board battles. However, Noel has issues with his agility and edgework. He could work on being more fluid in his turns and quick stops and changes of direction.”
— Ben Kerr/Last Word on Hockey
“Noel finished the season with a line of 28-25-53 in 62 games and added an assist in five playoff games against the Niagara IceDogs. On top of his improved skating, he demonstrated his lethal shot. Of note, he has a great release for a big man. There’s a lot to like here. With that said, there are questions. Noel scored his 28 goals on just 105 shots. He averaged less than two shots/game. For someone who has the skills and build he has, it’s somewhat concerning he only generated 105 shots. He’s got much more to give on the offensive end. In my live viewing of him, there were pockets of the game I didn’t even notice him. It’s kind of a tale of two extremes. When he’s noticeable, he brings people to their feet. Otherwise, I barely knew he was on the ice.”
— Mark Scheig/The Hockey Writers