With training camp around the corner, many fans will look forward to seeing the brightest prospects in the farm system excite in preseason. Winger Serron Noel may attract a lot of attention from fans in this next year.
Taken by the Florida Panthers in the early stages of the second round in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Serron Noel was labeled as a very raw prospect. His creativity and hands made him much more enticing than what he was perceived to be: a power forward.
Noel weighed in at 6’5″ and around 200 pounds going into the draft and had critics questioning whether he would be able to separate himself from the NHL level. He was difficult to gage throughout his youth, as his unorthodox size never matched the way he wanted to play his game.
He struggled in his debut season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals, with 24 points (9 goals, 13 assists) across 72 games as a sixteen-year-old. He also logged 62 penalty minutes during that time, which caused his draft positioning to stumble.
He did have a solid sophomore season in 2017-18, however. Playing in five fewer games than the previous season, Noel bagged 28 goals and 26 assists across 67 games, becoming a serious threat to watch at all times in the OHL.
During that season, he also became much more adapted to the “power forward” role, getting a lot of goals from crashing the net. Even for the better defensemen in the league, it was hard to stop someone so big and powerful combined with his great hands and surprising mobility for such an imposing figure.
When it came time for mock drafts leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft, the Ottawa native was still projected as a first-round pick. NHL’s official mock draft projected Noel to go as high as 15 to Philadelphia, and as low as 28 to Boston. Noel’s slip out of the first round was relatively surprising, so the Panthers snatched him up with the 34th pick in the draft.
What stood out about this selection was that the Panthers had already drafted a winger the night before, taking Russian Grigori Denisenko 15th overall. As mentioned earlier, Noel was a projected first-rounder, so the opportunity to take a chance on him with an early second-round pick was very appealing for Dale Tallon.
His initial reports praised his physical play, but also gave credit to his hands, calling him “more than just a big player.” Despite that, the reports also said he needed to shoot more and that he wasn’t always “effective,” but he made for an interesting prospect.
Tallon heaped praise on Noel, who said he was frustrated after not being selected in the first round. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Tallon had this to say about the forward:
“He’s gonna be a beast. He’s 6 foot 5, and he’s a skinny, raw-boned kid right now, but I like the fact that he can go up and down the wing quickly, protects the puck really well, has a good shot, has good speed. He’s just gonna get stronger and better, and I think it was a great draft for us getting him at 34.”
Since the pick, Noel has wowed his way into a new contract for Florida. Noel finished fourth amongst right-wingers in points in the OHL last campaign, scoring 38 goals and chipping in 54 assists across 86 games (including playoffs).
To go along with that, Noel also showed off his talents at the World Junior Summer Showcase. Promoted as a late call-up, Noel bagged two goals for Team Canada in what was otherwise a poor team showing against Finland. Noel’s next game will be on Friday, August 2nd against Sweden.
With 92 points in 86 games, Noel was signed to a three-year, entry-level contract back in March. His deal will see him making $925,000 annually.
With that new deal signed, Noel has a new goal: to crack the NHL roster. In June, Noel got a lot of attention from media members and organization members from his play, but it doesn’t seem Noel will be able to achieve these goals soon.
Noel, at just 18 years of age (soon to be 19 on August 8th), hasn’t played four seasons of major junior hockey, nor will he be 20 by the time December 31st rolls around. This means that he’ll still be playing in Oshawa this year, and will likely play in Springfield the year after, which may mean Noel might not play a consistent string of NHL regular-season games until 2021-22.
Bryan McCabe, director of player personnel, had a lot of positives to say about Noel but had one large complaint about his game. McCabe roughly called Noel inconsistent, saying this about Serron’s play during development camp, via NHL.com:
“When he’s on, he’s unstoppable. But the nights that he’s mentally not in it, those are the nights that he’s just a regular player on the ice… playing in the NHL is definitely a grind when you’re playing 82 games and a lot of travel and stuff. You’ve really got to be mentally ready to get through that. It’s something we talked about.”
Overall, Noel should be one of the more exciting players to watch throughout the minors in these next couple of years. The Panthers lack size in the forward corps after Nick Bjugstad’s trade to Pittsburgh, and Noel could definitely chip in with some grit and skill in the next couple of seasons.
Despite the easy comparisons to Bjugstad, Noel is expected to be much better than what Bjugstad was, mixing that same size, but with better hands and sense for the game. Be on the lookout for Noel in the future.