At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Oshawa Generals right wing Serron Noel is easy to spot on the ice.
This year, Noel has taken a huge step translating his physical gifts into superlative production — and it’s helped to propel him to the top of the draft board.
Helping him get there? A former professional football player with whom Serron’s quite familiar.
His father Dean.
“My dad has helped me through this whole process and I can’t thank him enough,” Noel said. “He knows so much about hockey and training. He’s got me with the best trainers, he’s stressed how important it is to have good nutrition, get to bed early, because he’s been through all this.
“He’s been a huge help.”
Following is time at Delaware State, Dean played for five seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before Serron was born.
But even though Dean’s expertise is on the gridiron, he’s able to translate that to the ice.
“He watches and gives me advice as well. But he’s been a really big help on off-ice training,” Noel said.
In 23 games this season, Noel has scored 14 goals on only 42 shots — a 33.3 percent clip.
Whether or not that type of production is sustainable is up for debate, but Noel said the improved accuracy is not just a matter of luck, but of study and awareness.
“I’ve just been trying to get more shots on the net,” he said. “I’ve gone over some statistics with some of my coaches and they’ve shown me the high-percentage scoring areas, so I’m trying to think more about where I’m shooting from and try to get into the slot.”
The Generals coaching staff isn’t surprised with Noel’s production.
In fact, they’ve been expecting it.
“As coaches here in Oshawa, we always knew he had the full package and he’s just needed to put it all together,” assistant coach Nathan McIver explained. “He’s everything for us. He’s 6-foot-5; he can skate as good as anyone in the league; he tracks pucks better than anyone on our team.
“We knew he had a little scoring touch — he didn’t score a lot last year, but we knew he had it in him — but this year he’s now breaking out.”
Last season, Noel had eight goals and 21 points in 63 games.
This year, in only 23 games so far this season, he’s performing at a near-point-per-game pace with 22 points.
Noel’s efforts have found him atop many draft lists.
“Obviously it’s a pretty good accomplishment for me to see myself at the highest place you can be, but I like to keep it in the back of my head and not think about it too much because the draft is a long way away,” Noel said.
“There’s lots of things that can go wrong and you can go down, so I just want to keep maintaining the way I’ve been playing and it keeps me there.”
It’s also not the first time Noel’s found his name around the draft class’ elite.
He was a member of Canada’s gold-medal-winning Ivan Hlinka entry this summer. The experience helped him see where and how to improve his on and off-ice game.
“It helped a lot. It was great to see how other top players — the guys who are ranked at the top — how they play, how they compare to me, and how I can get my game up to their level,” he said.
McIver added that he knows the lessons Noel’s learned and the work he’s put in has him on the right track as he approaches draft day.
“I think he’s on the right upward trajectory,” McIver said. “Even from where he was to where he is at this point of the year, I think he’s impressed a lot of scouts. He just needs to continue what he’s been doing this year.”
When it comes to his game, Noel looks to a guy who was selected 11th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft, just a few months before his third birthday.
“Someone like Jeff Carter of the L.A. Kings — I’ve watched him a bit and I feel that I kind of play the same way as him. I like to learn and watch from him and try to play his game,” Noel said.
At 6-foot3, 215 pounds, Carter has great NHL size. Noel is two inches taller, and has some time to fill out his 200-pound frame.
“I’m just a little bit taller. But we’re both power forwards,” he said. “We can both score, have a little bit of skill, and can pass the puck.”
Noel’s size offers him a competitive advantage, he explained, adding that he’s worked diligently to make the most of that size.
His father is, after all, helping him along in that regard.
“My long legs give me a long fast stride. I’m able to get to the puck faster. It helps in the corners being this size; it’s hard to pin me. So it’s a benefit in that way,” Noel said.
“I put a lot of work in the summer on my skating and trying to get faster. I think that’s helped my game a lot.
“Obviously there’s still a lot of work — I need to get stronger — but it helped a lot.”