My previous 2017 NHL Entry Draft prospect profile was about Ottawa 67’s forward, Austen Keating. While putting that profile together, I could not help but notice one of the defensemen standing out from that squad. He showed speed, offensive sensibilities, and often played with Keating. As fortune would have it, he just happened to be my next player to profile: defenseman Noel Hoefenmayer.
Who is Noel Hoefenmayer?
Noel Hoefenmayer is a left-handed defenseman who plays for the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. According to Elite Prospects, he was born on January 6, 1999 and he was officially measured at 6’0” and 190 pounds. Hoefenmayer has only played in the OHL; he has never been selected to represent at the international level. I would not view that as a mark against him. Making a Canadian youth team is very difficult with only so few spots available from year to year.
Hoefenmayer just completed his second OHL season and showed massive improvements in his production. As a rookie, he made 45 appearances with two goals, three assists, and 34 shots per the OHL’s website. He was held to four out of five playoff game appearances with no shots on net. In 2016-17, the 2017 draft eligible appeared in 62 games, scored 14 goals, picked up 26 assists, and took 97 shots on net per the OHL website. He finished fifth on the 67’s in points. In the 2017 postseason, Hoefenmayer played in all six games and put up two goals, five assists, and ten shots on net. He was the team’s point leader in their first round exit to Mississauga. The big increase in points are definitely an immediate plus.
However, some perspective is needed. Per Prospect-Stats, Hoefenmayer finished tied for twenty-third in scoring by OHL defensemen with 40 points and he finished tied for twenty-second in primary points among OHL defensemen with 27. There are number of draft eligible defensemen ahead of him in both categories (e.g. Matthew Timms, Nicolas Hague, Markus Phillips), but he has the points to be one of the higher ones for this year’s draft. Additionally, Hoefenmayer finished 2016-17 with 29 5-on-5 points (20 of which were primary points), which placed him tied for tenth among all defensemen in the OHL. While Hoefenmayer played on the power play, the majority of his points came in the most common situation in hockey. That gives me more confidence to believe that he is an offensive defenseman.
What sort of undercuts that confidence has to do with his number of shots on net. It’s a little concerning. 97 shots on net in 62 games means Hoefenmayer has a per-game average of 1.56. Per Prospect-Stats, while Hoefenmayer was among the top twenty-five defensemen in the OHL, no other defenseman in that group had a similarly low shots per game rate. In fact, only Matthew Timms (1.9), Jeff King (1.92), and Evan Bouchard (1.99) had per-game rates of fewer than two shots per game. While I can understand a defenseman not being a prolific shooter, I’d like to see an offensive defenseman fire away more often. Especially if he had 14 goals. Now, I wonder if those were the result of some fortune given his very high overall shooting percentage of 14.43% - the highest among the top twenty-five OHL defensemen scorers.
I wonder if it’s because of where Hoefenmayer played for Ottawa. Prospect-Stats has an individual player page with a helpful heat map of his shot and goal locations. Curiously, Hoefenmayer fired many of his shots from above the right circle - more so than the left. Most of his goals are from the high slot. Recall that Hoefemayer is a left-handed defenseman. This causes me to think that he’s been playing on the off-side, which could impact why he does not have more shots on net. Additionally, his most common teammates included leading shooter and scorer Artur Tyanulin and three of Ottawa’s top forwards: Keating, Sasha Chemlevski, and Patrick White. The only defenseman in his top five most common teammates was Kevin Bahl, a rookie left-handed defenseman. Perhaps Ottawa wanted to keep Bahl with Hoefenmayer but to protect Bahl, the coaches moved him to the right side. That’s what I think; I’d be happy to be corrected by someone who saw more of Ottawa.
All the same, Hoefenmayer was not a big shooter but he was a big producer and he played with the top forwards on 67’s last season. While I would have liked to have seen more shots on net, the other aspects of the numbers strongly suggest he’s an offensive defenseman. And the locations of his shots make me wonder if he wasn’t often slotted on the left side of defensemen pairings. It’s intriguing enough to me to want to learn more about him.
Where is Hoefenmayer Ranked?
Like Keating, Hoefenmayer surely has received plenty of views by scouts given that he’s in the Ontario Hockey League and he played for Ottawa. Here’s where various services rate him:
- NHL Central Scouting Services (Final): North America - 75
- The Draft Analyst (May): 92
- Future Considerations (May - Final): 71
- Craig Button - TSN (March): 52
- Jeremy Davis - Canucks Army/The Nation Network: 66
That Central Scouting Service ranking deserves a little notice. Hoefenmayer fell to 75th among North American skaters after being ranked 41st at the midterms. That could be the result of a combination of two factors: other prospects improving and Hoefenmayer not showing as much. That said, while they do vary, these are consistent with the idea that Hoefenmayer is worth a third-round draft pick. Let’s try to learn more about how he plays since not all potential third-round draft picks are the same.
What Others Say About Noel Hoefenmayer
Future Considerations has a player page available for Noel Hoefenmayer. I’m not sure when the comments were made, but they do go into detail about how Hoefenmayer plays. I do not see name on the report itself either. Regardless, it’s a good report that summarizes his game. This section of the profile, regarding his defense, stuck out to me:
Defensively, he is constantly surveying the ice to step up in the play and break up passes. Can get a little scrambled, position wise, in his own zone but his gap control is already well ahead of most of his top peers, and he manages to quickly make plays on puck carriers to disrupt the rush. He sees the ice well, plays a smart positional game and reads the developing play well getting himself into position to jump lanes and intercept passes and transition quickly or break up plays in his defensive zone.
I found this section to be enlightening because it specifies what Hoefenmayer does and does not do well on defense. For the negative side, it seems to me that the player could stand to be more composed and aware when there is an extended possession on defense. While I’m not sure it’s necessarily a negative, that he tends to anticipate breaking up plays suggests he can be a bit aggressive. Sometimes that can be disastrous, but sometimes that risk yields great rewards. The good news is that there are other positives that point to the notion that Hoefenmayer knows what he’s doing in his own end.
The Future Considerations profile also, curiously, notes that he doesn’t have “elite offensive tools,” but they do praise his shot and his skating. Do others agree? Let’s go to the man who forgot more about OHL prospects than I may ever know: Brock Otten at OHL Prospects.
In his final ranking of the top 50 OHL prospects for the season, Otten placed Hoefenmayer 23rd on his list. This part of his description about the player is worth highlighting, although you really should read the whole thing (and Otten’s list):
He has a lot of potential as a puck rusher, showcasing great skill cutting through the neutral zone. He's aggressive in jumping into the rush as the 3rd or 4th man in and has great scoring instincts for a defender. When coupled with an excellent point shot, it gives Hoefenmayer good offensive potential for the next level. Defensively, he has good positioning and smarts, but I do wish that he was more aggressive in attacking the corners and defending the front of his net, especially given his average size. This is particularly interesting because Hoefenmayer was actually touted as a very physical, hard nosed defender at the midget level, but that hasn't translated to the OHL level yet. Could be a confidence/strength thing. I think the other issue is that I see Hoefenmayer as only an average skater.
Otten wasn’t a huge fan of his skating, which I surprised to see since he praised how he moved through the neutral zone with the puck. He also noted that Hoefenmayer wasn’t physical. Otten smartly points out that while the defenseman is aggressive at jumping up on offense - and there’s good video evidence of this - he isn’t so aggressive in physical situations. Otten found that to be odd; I wonder if that’s something that could be brought out in time. He’s not a particularly large defenseman but being aggressive doesn’t require size. That said, Otten did think he’s a fine mid-round selection if only for his offensive skill.
Moving on, Hoefenmayer made the Canucks Army’s Top 100 Draft Eligible prospects at #66. J.D. Burke had this short profile about the defenseman, with the following to say regarding his skating and his best attribute:
Scouts often point to Hoefenmayer’s skating as his biggest weakness — an interesting critique since the community seems to have reached a consensus on his strength as a puck-carrier.
I’m a draft writer, not a scout, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think I’ve an idea of what they’re striking at here. Hoefenmayer has good straight line speed and an adequate top gear, but he could stand to work on his edges and footwork.
Hoefenmayer does some of his best work in the offensive zone. Most point to Hoefenmayer’s shot as his best attribute in this regard, and while it’s certainly a strength, I’m more impressed by his anticipation. Hoefenmayer creates shooting lanes for himself by finding seams in the opposition’s defence and isn’t shy about exploiting them. He knows when to apply pressure with a timely pinch and when to back off.
I’d like to agree with Burke in that depending on one values certain aspects could make the difference being a “flawless” skater as described by Future Considerations or “average” by Brock Otten. Burke also describes Hoefenmayer as “exciting,” in that Ottawa gained and gave up a lot when he played. He doesn’t regard his defensive game too highly, but he is another voice that backs up that Hoefenmayer’s shot and his anticipation. Now that I think about it, perhaps that contributed to his low shot totals as well.
For a different take, Hoefenmayer was highlighted at Hockey Now back on March 26 by Marshall Mackinder along with Cale Fleury and Kale Howarth. Here’s what Mackinder wrote about Hoefenmayer:
Plays a lot of minutes in all situations and plays a highly competitive game from the blue line. Put on a lot of muscle over the summer preparing for this season and it has showed as he has improved his skating and is highly mobile in the offensive zone. Plays with a physical edge but keeps his game disciplined. Has lots of work to do in his own end and he needs to cut down on his turnovers. Needs to feel confident in himself with the puck on his stick and not rush the play and make mistakes. Good at reading plays and reacting and will block shots and get himself in shooting lanes.
I like this summary because it notes how he was used and how he’s more mobile. This is also the only summary that notes his physical play as a positive and that he has an issue with turnovers. I haven’t seen that elsewhere; perhaps Mackinder saw something different in his viewings of the player. I do think it’s also interesting that rushing plays could be an issue; it would make sense if he’s playing aggressively.
While Steve Kournianos ranked Hoefenmayer at 92nd in his May rankings, he selected him much higher in his May mock draft. In the second round at 55th overall, in fact. Here’s the short blurb he wrote about Hoefenmayer:
The decision to let 2015 draftees Carl Neill and Tate Olson go unsigned popped a big hole in Vancouver’s blueline prospect depth, and a stocky, sturdy playmaker like Hoefenmayer is a good piece to help plug it up. He’s got a cannon from the point and loves to create off the rush, even if his skating isn’t anything to write home about. A risky pick but reward could be pretty high.
That basically summarizes the player: he’s a prospect with some risk, but if his offense translates to the next level, then he could become a mid-round draft reward for the team that picked him.
A Little Video
The video on Hoefenmayer are mostly highlights, but they do showcase his most touted talents. First, from NHL Prospects, here’s Hoefenmayer scoring off a slapshot from the center point off a pass from Keating (0:30 in, Hoefenmayer is wearing #2).
I really like how Hoefenmayer moved off the puck to get into a position where Keating could give him the puck. Even if it didn’t lead to a goal, it’s still a good play because he made himself an option for Keating. You’ll also note he started at the right point, which gives further credence to my suspicion he was used as a right defenseman for Ottawa. As for the shot itself, it’s very good. He took a touch to settle it and launched that puck high from the high slot. That extra touch to get a little closer made it that much harder for the goalie to react; leading to the goal.
Here’s a highlight from NHL Prospects where Hoefenmayer scored a goal and picked up an assist against Flint last season:
What I liked most about the goal, again, was the off the puck movement. The moment the Firebird forward missed on the wraparound, Hoefenmayer sensed that there could be a counter-attack. Starting from the top of the crease, he skates hard to make it a 2-on-1 rush with Drake Rymsha. His movement puts him in a great position for a lateral pass; he doesn’t go too fast to put himself offside or unable to get the pass. The shot itself is well-taken one-timer slapshot from the goalie’s left. The assist is absolutely gorgeous. Hofenmayer does well to make himself an option for Ryan Orban behind the net. He smoothly collected the puck and fired a great pass to Patrick White in the neutral zone. It split the Flint defense for White to get a breakaway, which ended with a lamplighter. It’s not an easy pass to make even though Hoefenmayer made it look easy.
Speaking of making things look easy, here’s a goal against Niagara that was put up by an Ottawa 67’s account (is it the team’s?)
Again, Hoefenmayer struck for a goal from the center point. The replay shows he had some pressure from #23 coming his way. Without panicking, Hoefenmayer fired a wrist shot into the seam towards the net. With the help of an Ice Dog teammate being in his way, he shot eluded the goalie. Even if the shot didn’t go in, it’s a good decision by the defenseman because he didn’t lose the puck, he didn’t just fire it into traffic blindly or for an easy block, and he made a positive play for the situation.
These clips may have been just short ones showing his success, but they all give me confidence that Hoefenmayer has an offensive skillset. He’s not just a volume shooter or a big slapshot or a distributor; he has had success with the 67’s in making offensive plays work.
An Opinion of Sorts
I’m still somewhat confused as to what to make of Hoefenmayer. The larger consensus is that he’s got a good shot, he’s got good offensive skills, and he can be very effective when it comes to participating on offense. It also includes that he’s a bit of a risky prospect, although the reasons for that vary. Some are not a fan of his skating, while others think it’s quite fine. Some think he’s aggressive in some ways but not enough in others. His defensive game - something rather important - may be something to work on, although it isn’t clear what exactly that is. Throw in that along with a low shots per net rate, possibly playing on the right side instead of the left side of a defensive pairing, and the inherent riskiness with any prospect (Can they do what they do now at a professional level years from now?), and it’s not a totally clear picture. But I can make out that he’s an offensive defenseman and that if/when he’s drafted, it’ll likely be late in the second round or early in the third round at best.
Let’s think about Hoefenmayer from a different perspective. Would I want a prospect like him in the New Jersey Devils’ system? He immediately checks a number of boxes that the pipeline needs. He’s a defenseman. He is a defenseman with offensive skills. He is a left handed defenseman. He does not have any kind of KHL contract that could get in the way of becoming a pro in North America. Does he carry risks? Absolutely, but the offensive skillset is sorely lacking among other prospects in the system. The shot is good. The mindset to join the attack is really good. I think he has the speed; that two-on-one rush had him starting from the top of his own crease. Perhaps there’s a lot of tweaking and developing to do, but I think there’s something there. Most of all, the Devils have a wealth of picks so they can afford to take a chance with a prospect like Hoefenmayer. I probably wouldn’t like it in the second round, but I could understand it in the third round. I’m not totally on the Hoefenmayer bandwagon, but I could see it as a defensible pick. If he’s somehow around in the fourth round, then I’d be more of a fan of his selection. Whether or not he’ll actually be available is up in the air.
Now that you know what I think and learned at least a little something about Noel Hoefenmayer, I want to know what you think. What do you think of Hoefenmayer’s game? What do you like the best about it? Do you think the offense will translate to the next level? What do you think he should work on? Would you want the Devils to draft him and, if so, when? Please leave your answers and other information about Noel Hoefenmayer in the comments. Thank you for reading.