BOSTON - The Beanpot tournament is a bit of a big deal in Boston. Pitting the four NCAA schools in the city against each other over two weekends, the showdown features blood rivals Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College and Boston University. Defenseman Noah Hanifin grew up around the tourney, so he was amped to play in it this year and helped Boston College win third place after an opening round loss to Northeastern.
“I pretty much went every year since I was five years old," Hanifin said. "To be able to play in it this year and experience it was unbelievable even though we didn't get the outcome we wanted.”
Like fellow 2015 NHL draft phenoms Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel (a friend of Hanifin's), it's not hard to run out of superlatives when talking about the gifted Hanifin.
Simply put, he's playing way beyond his years and has done so as one of the youngest players in all of college hockey, turning 18 just one month ago.
"He's a young player who is showing maturity and has been improving as the season goes on," said legendary Boston College coach Jerry York. "Very, very coachable, just a good guy. There are no airs about him."
In a 3-2 overtime win over Harvard, Hanifin played on both special teams units, logged heavy minutes and often played against the most dangerous Crimson players, such as Nashville Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey and Tampa Bay pick Brian Hart. As per his scouting report, Hanifin did so with poise, using his big frame and slick skating ability to manage the game. While he played with different partners, you could tell NHL picks such as Ian McCoshen and Michael Matheson (both Florida Panthers picks) already have iron-clad trust in the kid, as they would take chances knowing Hanifin had their back.
And learning from those older players has been great for Hanifin, too.
“It's kind of an everyday thing," he said. "It's their work ethic; me being a younger guy it's good to look up to them. Being able to work with them, battle with them, study film with them – it's a pleasure every day.”
Right now, Hanifin appears to be a lock to go third overall in the draft and he has already racked up some great experiences this season. He was a member of Team USA's world junior squad on a very young defense corps that also featured 2015 draft prospects Brandon Carlo of WHL Tri-City and the University of Michigan's Zach Werenski.
Sure, the Americans got wiped out in the quarterfinal by Russia in a game that featured too many needless penalties taken by the U.S., but Hanifin took a lot away from his games in Montreal.
“Since the world juniors I picked it up a little bit," he said. "The world juniors was definitely a higher level skill-wise. So when I came back here, I've been better. Now I'm pretty settled in.”
Being as highly acclaimed as he has been for the past few years, Hanifin's services were in high demand as he climbed the ranks. He played for the U.S. National Team Development Program before college, but also had his rights drafted by major junior's Quebec Remparts.
But for a boy who grew up on the Beanpot and the schools that play in it, Boston College has been a dream come true, both on and off the ice.
“That's why I really wanted to go the college route," Hanifin said. "I really take pride in being a well-rounded kid and the school aspect has been great. It's tough, but I love it here.”
With his skill set, size and calmness, Hanifin could probably play in the NHL next year. But if he wanted to win the Beanpot next season, the Eagles would undoubtedly be more than OK with that.