“That’s kind of one of the biggest things I’ve got going for me is my size,” he said. “Once I start to fill out and get stronger, I’m going to be able to win those puck battles in the corner and bring it to the net. And that’s something I really want to work on and get stronger at, and just get better at.”
Noel was selected by the Panthers in the second round (No. 34) of the 2018 NHL Draft, a pick acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes involving forward Lawson Crouse, who Florida chose with the No. 11 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Noel was the first of seven players taken in the 2018 draft who are 6-foot-5 or taller.
“He fits a big need that we don’t have right now in this organization,” Panthers director of player personnel Bryan McCabe said. “We’ve got a lot of very skilled centermen and some goal scorers on the other wings, but we’re lacking that size and the guys willing to do the grunt work and get to the hard areas to complement skilled players like that. He fits that mold 100 percent.”
Noel, whose father Dean was a running back in the Canadian Football League, used his size to score 53 points (28 goals, 25 assists) in 62 games last season for Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League.
McCabe compared Noel’s style to Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, though Noel has an additional comparison in mind.
“I don’t necessarily just take from one player,” Noel said. “[Winnipeg Jets forward] Blake Wheeler is someone I play like a similar game to, just size, speed and skill. But I also try and model my game after someone like Wayne Simmonds in front of the net, just really aggressive, really strong in front with the strong stick, hard to knock off and plays tough as well. Different varieties and different skills from different players.”
To become that kind of player, Noel knows he’ll need to improve his skating and get stronger to win battles for the puck. He’ll be in training camp with the Panthers in September, though when he talks about goals for this season, he mentions Oshawa rather than Florida.
“We have a really good squad in Oshawa and I think that we’ll have a really good playoff push,” Noel said. “I really want to make a stand next year and make a point proving that the Oshawa Generals are here for business. I also would like to make the World Junior team [representing Canada] as well. I think I’m a player who definitely could be on that roster and that’s also one of my goals.”
As for the NHL?
“I understand it’s a process,” Noel said. “I’m just going to try to work as hard as I can to make that the quickest process as I can and try to get to the NHL as fast as I can.”