Jack Eichel won’t be the only NCAA star making the leap to the NHL next season, as the Carolina Hurricanes announced they have signed defenseman Noah Hanifin, the fifth overall selection in the 2015 draft, to an entry-level contract.
“Noah has had a great week here during our prospect development camp,” said GM Ron Francis. “He is big, he can skate and he can move the puck. Noah fits the mold for the type of player and person we want in a Hurricanes uniform.”
By signing the three-year deal with Carolina, Hanifin forgoes his final three years of NCAA eligibility to head to the NHL.
The entry-level deal pays Hanifin a signing bonus of $277,500 and the first-year defenseman will carry a cap hit of $832,500, a paltry sum for a defender who can easily slot into the Hurricanes’ top-four from the outset of the new campaign. If coach Bill Peters wants to start Hanifin down the lineup, however, there’s nothing stopping Peters from helping the young defenseman find his legs at the pro game alongside a veteran blueliner such as James Wisniewski or Ron Hainsey.
Hanifin, 18, spent the past season at the NCAA’s Boston College where he scored five goals and 23 points in 37 games. Prior to heading to the NCAA, Hanifin spent a year with the U.S. National Team Development Program, scoring eight goals and 25 points in 45 games. Apart from the formidable point totals as a defenseman, which point to incredible offensive acumen for a young blueliner, Hanifin already has the size – he stands 6-foot-3, 203 pounds and he’s still filling out – to be NHL ready at this point in his career.
Long projected to be the third overall pick in the draft behind Connor McDavid and Eichel, Hanifin slipped to the fifth spot with Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner leaping up the board on draft day. That said, Carolina is a good fit for Hanifin, as he’ll have three, experienced defensemen in Hainsey, Wisniewski and Justin Faulk to help Hanifin make the transition.
Following a season in which an 18-year-old defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, had a remarkably successful rookie season, the hope for the Hurricanes is that Hanifin can, in some regards, reprise what Ekblad was able to accomplish this past season. If Hanifin does, there could be more than a few Calder Trophy votes coming his way.