Sports, Winter, Basketball, Hockey

Who Would Perform Better In The Pros Next Year?

Hanlan has NBA-caliber size and skills

Tom DeVoto | Heights Staff

Johnny Gaudreau is undoubtedly one of the best players in college hockey. He’s quick, smart, and a magician with the puck. There’s just one glaring problem: he’s too small.

Gaudreau, despite his immense amount of talent, might get lost among the massive defensemen bearing down on him in the National Hockey League. Just imagine him trying to work his way around 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara. That’s the reason he fell into the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s why he’ll struggle to make an impact early for the Calgary Flames.

At 6-foot-4, however, Olivier Hanlan is on the taller end as far as NBA guards go. With teammate Joe Rahon handling most of the point guard duties, Hanlan plays primarily as a shooting guard for head coach Steve Donahue. Nevertheless, Hanlan has no problem bringing the ball up himself, and will most likely be a point guard in the NBA.

Hanlan is fast. Unbelievably fast. When Hanlan decides to drive to the basket, there are only a few people in college basketball who he can’t beat off the dribble. He’s showcased that ability in games time and time again, most notably against Florida Atlantic University, in which he went for 38 points on 11-of-19 shooting.

In Boston College’s 3-pointer-heavy offensive, everyone is given plenty of opportunities to show off their shooting ability. Hanlan currently ranks third in scoring in the ACC. He sits just over a point behind Duke’s Jabari Parker, whom many experts project to be one of the top three picks in the upcoming draft.
What cannot be overlooked, though, is Hanlan’s significance as a leader and a facilitator on the court. Hanlan has scored over 20 points in a BC victory only once this season, against Florida Atlantic University-he doesn’t need to score big in order to help the team. His ability to find teammates and spark plays, even when he doesn’t get recognized with an assist, would be valuable to any NBA franchise.
The biggest knock on Hanlan is his ability to play sound defense. In the modern era, though, professional basketball has become defense-optional. Just ask James Harden, Steve Nash, or Nick “Swaggy P” Young.

While it would be dumb to assume that Hanlan will get drafted early in the first round and start immediately in the NBA, he could be a key role player coming off the bench in his first season. Energy and production off the bench are absolutely vital in professional basketball, especially during an 82-game season.

Despite the fact that his minutes might be limited early, Hanlan could find himself taking a career path similar to Reggie Jackson, another BC basketball star. Jackson logged important minutes off the bench for his first two seasons in relief of teammate Russell Westbrook, and started in Westbrook’s place when he went down with an injury. His stats have improved considerably each season since his debut in 2011, and they show no signs of slowing down at this point.

Gaudreau, however, will likely spend time with the Flames’ minor-league affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL, before he gets a chance in the big leagues. The time to go from prospect to everyday player in the NHL is much longer than that of the NBA, in which many rookies only play a single season in college and become franchise centerpieces in their first season.

Despite the fact that some short players in hockey been successful, like NHL veterans Brian and Stephen Gionta, Nathan Gerbe and Martin St. Louis, each of those players are considerably bulkier than Gaudreau. While most players in the 5-foot-8 range are around 180 pounds, Johnny Hockey is currently listed at 159 pounds. At that weight, he would be the lightest player in the league.

Each player has the potential to be wildly successful in his respective sport, but this one comes down to Gaudreau’s size. Hanlan is better suited for the professional level, and it’s considerably easier to break out in one’s rookie campaign in the NBA. Look for Hanlan to make an impact off the bench for a contender next season.

Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff
Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff

Gaudreau’s game can translate to NHL

Steve Principi | For The Heights

It’s hard to explain just how good Johnny Gaudreau has been this season. A quick look at his numbers gives you some idea of what he’s done, but not the whole picture. His ridiculous pace of almost two points per game this season puts him a laughable distance ahead of anyone else in the country, he’s first in the nation in game-winning goals, and he has registered a point in all but one game this season.

By any statistical measure that you look at, it’s hard to say that Gaudreau isn’t the best player in college hockey by a wide margin. The same criticisms about his size persist, though, and have led people to believe that he will not be successful when he inevitably turns pro. Meanwhile, Olivier Hanlan has been linked with the NBA draft despite being in the midst of a 7-20 season wherein he has not played as well as his numbers indicate. While Hanlan may indeed have a professional career in his future, therefore, he is not as close to being ready as Gaudreau.

The most noticeable part of Gaudreau’s game outside of his statistical dominance is just how much better he makes everyone around him. He is virtually untouchable when he has the puck, and he has the ability to open up all kinds of space for his line mates. This has never been more obvious than this season. Gaudreau was put on a super line with Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold earlier this season, and the three of them have been putting up points at a remarkable rate. In fact, they have been so dominant that all three rank in the top four in scoring across all of college hockey.

Last year, however, they were not skating together. Arnold and Hayes had decent enough seasons, with Arnold putting up 35 points and Hayes putting up 25 while missing a significant amount of time, but this year they have been unstoppable. Hayes has more than doubled his point total from last year already with 51, while Arnold has jumped to 44. It’s certainly worth mentioning that both of them had success at Boston College before being put on Gaudreau’s line, and that they both are NHL draft picks themselves, but it is impossible to deny that being able to play with college hockey’s most dominant player has lifted their games immensely.

As great as Gaudreau’s offensive game is, it is his defense that may allow him to succeed in the NHL one day. He is easy to lose on the ice because of his small stature, but the trust that Jerry York has for him in the defensive zone is evident. To start with, Gaudreau has six empty-net goals on the season. While this can lead some to think that his goal totals are inflated as a result, what it really shows is the faith that York has in him.

Empty-net situations typically occur when a coach wants the best defenders on the ice to protect a one-goal lead with a minute left in the game, and Gaudreau is always out there. More amazing is the fact that York sends Gaudreau out on the penalty kill time and time again. The PK is a situation in which players are frequently asked to block shots that risk an injury and play for long stretches in their own zone.
BC is full of great penalty killers like Quinn Smith and Michael Sit who do not contribute nearly as much offensively as Gaudreau does. Yet Gaudreau always finds himself on the ice when his team is down a man-and often with the first unit. Simply put, Gaudreau is not a one-dimensional player. He is a stud in all three zones and as good at preventing goals as he is at scoring them.

Hanlan, on the other hand, is still raw. His defensive game has a long way to go, and he has been criticized for disappearing on the court for long stretches of games. His assist numbers have only climbed slightly as a sophomore, his turnovers have gone up, and his shooting numbers are down across the board. Therefore, while Hanlan may have a bright future in the NBA some day, the simple fact is that Gaudreau is the more prepared player today.

Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

February 26, 2014