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2022 NHL Draft prospect profile: Noah Warren is a physical, shutdown defender

If you like big, shutdown defenders, then Noah Warren is your kind of hockey player.

2022 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

When you watch any game involving the Gatineau Olympiques, one of the easiest people to notice on the ice is none other than Noah Warren. Standing at 6’5” and weighin 214 pounds as a 17-year-old, he is virtually impossible to miss as one of the more imposing presences in the entire QMJHL.

Birthplace: St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec
Date of birth: July 15, 2004
Shoots: Right
Position: Defence
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 214 lbs.
Team: Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

Despite very low offensive production in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, the hulking defender worked his way into NHL Draft consideration because of how well he defended as a rookie. The main criticism of his game was the lack of offence, and he clearly made an effort to address that going into his sophomore campaign.

With 24 points in 62 games this season, he jumped from 0.13 points per game in his rookie year to 0.38; not wow-factor numbers by any stretch, but measurable improvement in the main area scouts were hoping to see improvement.

That improvement, coupled with the size that tends to garner the interest of professional scouts, has put him in the conversation to potentially go as high as the second round this July in Montreal.

Strengths

It will surprise few to hear that he is incredibly physical on the ice. What stands out for me is how he meets oncoming forwards attempting to gain the zone on his side. He has solid gap control, closes it quickly, and you don’t want to be on the other end when he’s doing so.

Conversely, he will surprise many with how well he moves at his size. Generally skating will be a concern for defencemen with his build, but he boasts a smooth stride and surprising agility.

He has talked about wanting to increase his speed to be more NHL-ready, but at the CHL Top Prospects Game, he had the best time in the 30-metre forward skate without the puck, beating out the likes of Nathan Gaucher, Shane Wright, and Matthew Savoie. This is of course a skills competition at what essentially amounts to an all-star game, but it is an impressive list of draft-eligible skaters to have beaten.

Where he really shines is in his own zone. He is a fearsome net-front presence, clearing the crease with ease and ensuring a good line of sight for his goaltender. He uses his reach and an active stick to disrupt passes, and has zero fear of putting his body in the way of shots. When he gets the puck on his stick, he is also looking to make breakout passes to get things going in transition.

Weaknesses

The physicality he brings can sometimes be a curse as much as it is a blessing. Below you’ll see top-10 prospect Savoie completely fold under the weight of Warren, but unfortunately this is not a manner in which you can use your weight legally.

He wasn’t quite parading himself to the box with 52 PIMs in 62 contests, but plays like the one above will happen at times when he gets beat.

The limited offensive upside will hold him back at the NHL level. He struggles to generate much in terms of velocity on his shots from the point (which is odd considering his size), though generally prefers to shoot from distance rather than find teammates or attempt to create space at the blue line. In fact, he struggles to complete passes in the offensive zone, where his skills are not near the level he shows on breakout passes.

His offensive numbers improved year-over-year with the Olympiques, which is a good sign, but there is still work to be done. If he can improve his shooting mechanics to take advantage of his frame, and work on his quick decisions in the passing game to exploit lanes and find his teammates, he should improve even more through 2022-23.

Rankings

DobberProspects: #56
Elite Prospects: #58
FCHockey: #68
McKeen’s: #98
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #59
NHL Central Scouting: #33 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): N/R
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): N/R

Rankings vary on Warren, but the overall impression appears to be that he could go as high as the mid-second round. He may jump on a few lists prior to the draft itself, but a push anywhere into first-round territory seems quite unlikely.

Discussion

I like the idea of the Montreal Canadiens taking Warren with the later of their second-round picks, though this depends heavily on who else is available. It also depends on whether the Edmonton Oilers make the Stanley Cup Final, in which case the later pick skips to the 2023 Draft. Using the 33rd pick that they hold would be a significant reach, so they’ll have to hope he’s around a little longer if they want to go in that direction.

There is also a possibility that the lack of offensive upside causes him to slide into the third round. In that round, the Habs hold three selections barring any trades, and his combination of size and skating ability are rare. The Canadiens also aren’t exactly stacked in terms of right-shot defencemen, so he seems like a worthwhile project for them to take on.

They are also in no rush for him to play in the NHL, so they can afford the time required to help him develop more offensive abilities. If he makes it to the third round on day two, I would consider Warren to be an excellent value pick for Montreal.