Florida Panthers

This Panthers draft pick wants to share his love of hockey with South Florida

Serron Noel poses after being selected thirty-fourth overall by the Florida Panthers during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas.
Serron Noel poses after being selected thirty-fourth overall by the Florida Panthers during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. Getty Images

It was hard to miss Serron Noel as players stepped on the ice for the start of the Florida Panthers' development camp on Tuesday.

His 6-5 and 211-pound frame towered over his teammates. Not including the goaltenders, only two other players in his group were taller than 6-2 and none weighed more than 195 pounds.

If he can use his size to his advantage, watch out.

"Being bigger is always nice around the ice," Noel said.

But Noel wants his impact with the Panthers to expand beyond the ice. After being drafted in the second round on Saturday, the 17-year-old from Ottawa told reporters in Dallas that he wants to use his platform as a black hockey player to be "an ambassador or role model" for the sport. He fell in love with the sport by playing street hockey and hopes to use that as a possible avenue to get kids in South Florida interested.

"I just want to keep getting better and be a person that young people can look up to, for sure," Noel said.

Noel showed a glimpse of his potential in Coral Springs on Tuesday.

He made his biggest mark during the final drill of the opening session when players took turns going solo against three defenders. They had just one chance to score before going to the back of the line. Noel took a feed, dribbled the puck with his stick and slammed the puck into the net with ease.

Overall, a good first day, he said.

The Panthers are hoping he can add to the franchise's long list of forwards in the making. Florida has spent its first two picks in each of the past three drafts on front-line players. In 2016, it was center Henrik Borgstrom and left wing Adam Mascherin. Last year, it was right wing Owen Tippett and center Aleksi Heponiemi. This year, it was Russian left wing Grigori Denisenko and Noel, a right-winger from Ottawa, Canada.

"He's gonna be a beast," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "I like the fact that he can go up and down the wing quickly, protects the puck really well, has a great shot, has good speed. He's just going to get stronger and better."

Noel is coming off a 2017-18 season in the Ottawa Hockey League in which he scored 28 goals and added another 25 assists in 62 games, helping lead the Oshawa Generals to a playoff berth. Last summer, he helped Canada's Under-18 National Team win gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.

Scouts are optimistic about Noel. NHL Scouting Central ranked him as the 10th-best North American skater in the draft.

"He's a young kid and it's scary to think about the player he'll be when he's fully developed," Karl Stewart, who evaluates Ontario Hockey League (OHL) prospects for NHL Scouting Central, told NHL.com. "His skating is as close to NHL ready when he wants to skate. He can drive you wide and get around you, and he's got quick acceleration to separate himself from anyone."

Noel's journey to the NHL is merely just beginning.

But he is ready for the ride.

"I'm just super excited to finally get on the ice and kind of see how professional hockey gets treated," Noel said.

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