Serron Noel, Oshawa General (OHL)
Position: Right Wing
Age on Draft Day: 17.88
Height/Weight: 6’5, 204 pounds
2017-2018 Stats (Including Playoffs): 67 GP, 28 G, 26 A, 73 PIM, -8
NHL Central Scouting: 10th (North American Skaters)
ISS Hockey: 14th
Craig Button (TSN): 16th
Canucks Army: 25th
Future Considerations: 29th
Scott Wheeler: 40th
Serron Noel is your typical power forward that NHL scouts fall in love with. At 6’5 and 204 pounds, he’s already a physical specimen, and there’s still a lot of room for growth.
Often with players like that, scouts can not look beyond the size and see deficiencies. That’s a concern, but what I will say is that Noel is definitely more than just a big body. He’s not overly skilled, but he can make plays through the neutral zone and pass the puck. Here was one of the first rushes I saw from Noel where I thought, “okay, this guy can play hockey.” He has his head up and can carry through the neutral zone around the forecheck.
As the clip showed, he has an awkward skating stride, and it takes him a bit of time to generate speed. Once he’s at top gear, though, his long strides make up for a quickness problems and he can keep up with the play. Here’s another clip that demonstrates this (watch for #8 in white).
As one would hope from a big forward like Noel, he is a strong forechecker. Yes, he uses his size to put defensemen under pressure and push bodies around. I was more impressed with his ability to use his range to get sticks on in the way of passing lanes, clog the neutral zone, and really close down on puck carriers to disrupt rushes and force turnovers.
Offensively, Noel is a very simple player. Here is his shots and goals location chart from this past OHL season, via Ian Fleming.
He drives the net and creates problems. Defensemen have major trouble dealing with him because he’s just too big to move, and he gets inside positioning on plays early. He also has very good hands. His long range allows him to get on the end of rebounds, and he’s very good at deflecting shots. At every level he plays, Noel will be the net front presence on the power play, and he will excel in the role. Every once in a while he’ll score from a nice wrist shot, but for the most part Noel is going to do all of his damage from the low slot.
Noel is an interesting player. I think it’s very fair to question his upside. He is very good at the things he does, but is also limited as a player right now. His skating holds him back, and while he gets away with it just fine in the OHL, that could be what makes or breaks him at the NHL level. Again, it’s not a problem of straight-line speed, but rather agility, pivots, acceleration, and so on. His puck skills need to improve. Nobody expects him to be a go-to playmaker or zone entry machine, but he needs to improve enough to be a competent option for when he does have the puck. He’s shown that ability in flashes at the OHL level, so it’s not necessarily out of his range.
Less than 40% of players drafted in the back-end of the first round go on to have established NHL careers, and that number drops even further once the second round commences. Based on Canucks Army’s projection model, nearly 50% of comparable players to Noel went on to play 200+ games in the NHL. So, relatively speaking, Noel has a strong probability of success compared to where I have him ranked.
I am normally against safe players, because you can find bottom-six forwards cheaply in free agency or at the trading deadline. However, I think Noel’s upside is beyond that. For one, his numbers in the OHL are very good. Tom Wilson, Shawn Matthias, and Eric Fehr are just a few examples of quality bottom-six forwards in the NHL, Noel’s 28 Goals and 35 assists eclipses their pre-draft production by a hefty margin.
As an August birthdate, Noel is also one of the youngest players available in this draft. For all intents and purposes. Developmental curves aren’t uniform, but that extra 6-8 months he has to develop compared to many others in this draft could end up proving monumental. Often times, teams draft big forwards who lack skill and then unsuccessfully try to spin straw into gold. Noel is an extremely raw player, but he has shown moments of ability on the puck. It’s a big project, but hands-on skills and skating coaching from the right people could turn Noel into a quality middle six forward with the type of skillset that is hard to find. If not, he offers pretty good insurance as a bottom-six forward.
In my opinion, there is too much skill available in the middle of the first round for him to be a good pick in that range. At the end of the first round, though, he is an interesting combination of expected NHL quality plus attainable higher-end ability.
What Others Have Said
Dominic Tiano, OHL Writers (via OHL Prospects):
To be honest, I see Noel as a project, a guy who needs to put in more work then some of the guys that will be drafted around him. But the package is there, he’ll just need more time then some of the other players.
Brock Otten, OHL Prospects:
The questions are: how much better can his puck control ability become at full speed? Will his hockey sense in the offensive end develop?nd will he start to play with more truculence on a consistent basis and become a force away from the puck? If the answer to all three of those questions is yes, this guy will look like the steal of this year´s draft.