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NHL draft 2015: Noah Hanifin chosen as the No. 5 player on the board

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The smooth-skating Boston College defenseman ran away with the vote for the No. 5 spot on our board, but now is where things can go in almost any direction.

Does Hanifin look eerily similar to Robert Hagg, or is it just me? Could get confusing.
Does Hanifin look eerily similar to Robert Hagg, or is it just me? Could get confusing.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The top five on our community board for the 2015 NHL Draft came was rounded out yesterday in rather predictable fashion, as Noah Hanifin, regarded by most as the best defensive prospect in this draft, lapped the competition several times over in picking up 77 percent of the vote for the No. 5 spot on our board.

Hanifin had a very solid season for Boston College and was one of Team USA's best defensemen at the World Junior Championships despite being two years younger than most of the players around him. BC more or less asked him, 17 years old and all, to come in and do everything for them, and he pretty much obliged.

We've discussed Hanifin here before in brief, so if you need a refresher on a basic overview of him as a player:

Hanifin joined Boston College early as a 17-year-old, and the combination of his big frame (he's already 6'3, 205 at at 17) and unreal hockey sense made him a stud freshman. He's a two-way guy with a great eye on the breakout, and his transition game might be his best quality. He can also do stuff like this.

What sets Hanifin apart from the other defensemen towards the top of the board (namely, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski) is his outstanding skating ability, with ESPN's Corey Pronman going as far as to call him the second-best pure skater in the draft behind Connor McDavid. His wheels are what help him consistently be in the right place in the right time in all three zones, and are key to his ability to lead or start the rush and break out of the defensive zone.

Exactly how good his on-puck skills are at this point in time depend on who you're asking (though, as you can see in the Vine linked above, he's clearly got the potential to flash some dazzling skill there). And his scoring numbers this year -- while absolutely impressive for a 17-year old freshman in an NCAA conference as tough as Hockey East -- don't suggest that he'll come right in and dominate offensively (which, in fairness, is not something that most defensemen do).

But he's certainly still above-average and growing in that department, and with a little progress there, his other tools (skating, smarts) combined with his 6'2" frame suggest that he's got the potential to be a top defenseman for a long time.

There have been some rumblings in recent weeks that some teams prefer Brandon defenseman Ivan Provorov to Hanifin, and I've heard from some people (fans, that is) that feel the same way. It's possible that Provorov is the better prospect, but I personally think this theory from Scott Wheeler over at Pension Plan Puppets may be on to something:

Recent talks that Provorov, a special defender in his own right, is the best defensemen in the class strike me more as the age-old Pick-Apart-An-Elite-Prospect-Until-You-Talk-Yourself-Out-Of-Believing-They-Are-Elite Syndrome for Noah Hanifin. Hanifin, who doesn't possess Provorov's shot but matches him on the defensive end of the ice and exceeds him with world-beating speed, remains the best defensemen in the class.

It's understandable that more people are lining up behind Provorov, who had excellent numbers this season and saw his own stock shoot up as the year went on. But I tend to agree with the idea that Hanifin has done nothing to make us believe he isn't the best defenseman in the class. Maybe it isn't by a wide margin, but I do think he's the best.

Of the five players on the board so far, he's probably the first one for which it's not totally out of the realm of possibility that he would drop to the No. 7 spot. It's certainly not likely, but if the top four forwards go 1-through-4, who knows what Carolina and New Jersey may do?

As for how he'd fit here, Hanifin -- with due respect to Travis Sanheim and the rest of the Flyers' 'big four' of defensive prospects -- would instantly become the best prospect in the organization, which is an exciting thought for a team that's already gone a long way towards rebuilding its defensive prospect corps over the past few years.

He could potentially stay at Boston College for another year, but he can also immediately be signed and sent to Lehigh Valley (or even, if the team finds him ready for it, Philadelphia) right away. The Flyers would likely prefer the latter option, as they'd be able to have him developing with them rather than somewhere else and can get him accustomed to a full professional season's schedule of games. But who knows what'll happen.

Either way, if Hanifin somehow becomes a Flyer I think we'd all be pretty thrilled. There's always a lot of risk with defensive prospects, but Hanifin is probably the most exciting out of this year's.

With the group widely regarded as the draft's top 5 now all on the big board, things may now open up quite a bit. A guy who's No. 6 on one list can be No. 20 on another, so by and large this is the part where things really get unpredictable. As such, we'll add a few more names to the list of options.

Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS (Liiga) - 9 G, 19 A in 56 GP

Mikko Rantanen is a big player who plays a power forward style of game. At six-foot-four he has the ideal size that NHL teams crave. He works extremely hard along the boards and is extremely effective at winning battles in international tournaments in his age group. He may not throw huge hits, but he uses his size effectively in the corners and in establishing position in the offensive zone. He also drives the net hard and can finish in close. He could stand to work on his shot though, as he could use more power but already has a very good release. The added power may come with additional upper body strength. This is not to say that his shot is bad not, its not; but it could be elite with a little work. Rantanen controls the puck well down low on the cycle and has the vision to spot open teammates and the passing skill to feather a tape-to-tape pass through the tiniest of openings. He is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer right now, as he often looks to make the pass instead of taking available shots.

-- via Ben Kerr at Last Word on Sports

Kyle Connor, C, Youngstown (USHL) - 34 G, 46 A in 56 GP

He has become more of a complete and all round forward. Connor's defensive game has definitely improved in the past year. In the USHL he was used at even strength, penalty kill and powerplay. He had great versatility and could play in any situation. ... He has top end hockey IQ something that has helped him become a noted playmaker in the USHL. He is also a very good skater with all round mobility and speed that makes him deadly in all areas of the ice. ... Connor's speed and hockey intelligence has made him one of the top players in the USHL this year. His speed is deadly and can often leave defenseman flailing to catch up with him. ... His main area that he needs to improve is his physical strength. He's not as big as he could be and in the future he will need to be bigger and stronger. When he joins the NCAA he'll have the time to work on that and to bulk up.

-- via Huw Wales at Defending Big D

Travis Konecny, C/RW, Ottawa (OHL) - 29 G, 39 A in 60 GP

His speed, skating, puck control and passing are all outstanding, and he possesses elite levels of awareness and creativity in the offensive zone. When it comes to effort and determination you won't find many better. His greatest individual attribute, however, is his shot, which he can unleash from almost anywhere in the offensive zone and comes off of his stick with remarkable power and accuracy for a player of his size. ... For all the things that Konecny does well, his small stature continues to stand out as an inescapable knock against him. ... In an interesting paradox, Konecny is a player that is excellent in tight traffic and is not afraid of getting into the dirty areas of the ice and being physical, things that coaches normally love, but he takes more punishment than his peers when he does this because he's not as big. That sort of fearlessness has already led to a few injuries in his junior career.

-- via Derek Neumeier at Defending Big D

Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL) - 44 G, 46 A in 61 GP

I've never seen such a wide array of skills attributed to one player. It seems like the only thing that he truly lacks as a prospect is breakaway speed and acceleration. He is strong on the puck, an avid backchecker and forechecker, a good passer and great shooter, possesses a sophisticated offensive hockey mind, kills penalties, has great balance, is built like a house, and is a good team player (got an "A" on the national team). That was an absurdly long run-on sentence because this guys skill set is so broad. He's an elite shooter and he's just really good at everything else. That versatility makes him, to me, one of the safest picks this side of McDavid/Eichel.

-- via CJ Turturo at In Lou We Trust

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The 2015 BSH Community NHL Draft Board

  1. Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL)
  2. Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA)
  3. Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL) (45% of the vote)
  4. Mitch Marner, C/RW, London (OHL) (54%)
  5. Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA) (77%)
  6. ???

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As always, please use your vote below to answer the following question: If all of the players listed were available when the Flyers were on the clock, who would you want them to pick?