Despite flying under the radar at times, Joel Hanley participated in the Columbus Blue Jackets' development camp this past summer, and he now looks to anchor the University of Massachusetts blue line this season.
Last season, Hanley scored seven goals and added 18 assists; he led all UMass defensemen in scoring with 25 points. So far this season, Hanley, has a goal and an assist in four games of play.
Hanley, a junior, has often flown under the radar because he is a smaller defensemen, standing at 6 feet tall. Although, not always being in the spotlight has also been a benefit because it has allowed him to just focus on playing his game.
“As a smaller defenseman people overlook you, and they don’t think you have the physical strength or size,” Hanley said. “You have to take it into account, but it is nice to be a little underrated sometimes. When the spotlight isn’t on you all the time you can just do your thing out there.”
At his smaller stature, Hanley has modeled his game around other, shorter offensive styled defenseman in the NHL like Mike Green.
“Green is a smaller offensive defensemen, and there are a lot of things I try to take out of his game,” Hanley said. “I like his offensive ability, especially how he sees the game so well.”
Hanley’s vision on the ice is actually something that new UMass coach John Micheletto has noticed right away.
“I think he has a real good vision for the game, and he has an idea of what to do with the puck,” Micheletto said. “One of his best assets is being able to see the big picture. While other players might only see one option, he can sort through his options quickly and still make the appropriate decision.”
Playing with the Columbus Blue Jackets' prospects this summer is something that Hanley hopes to build on and improve his game for this season.
“Seeing how some of the others carried themselves like professionals is important,” Hanley said. “You notice what they are all doing, how hard they work, so I want to build off that at UMass.”
Although Hanley gets to play against a lot of NHL prospects playing in Hockey East, Hanley got a chance to compare himself to the likes of top tier CHL or European players who he doesn’t get to face in college hockey.
“I thought I compared well to the others prospects, and it was good to go against some guys, the highly touted prospects, there,” Hanley said.
Although Hanley is often considered a puck moving or offensive defenseman, Hanley is no slouch in the defensive zone.
“He has a great defensive stick, so he holds his position well,” Micheletto said. “He likes to use his stick [when] guys get into his body. He has added a lot of strength, so he is much more effective up close in those one-on-one battles. Pairing his offensive and defensive [abilities] together I think he is really underrated.”
Hanley may have a bit of an adjustment period early this season, especially when he is quarterbacking the power play with a new system under Micheletto.
“I think it is just asking everyone to play fast,” Micheletto said. “For Joel it is just about getting the puck up as quickly as possible, and having him jump up into the offense when he can.”
Hanley, a native of Keswick, Ontario, had his goals set on playing junior hockey in the OHL before he decided to study at UMass. He really didn’t know much about the college game in America, but getting an education was important to he and his family. After deliberating with coaches and his family, though, he did decide to go the NCAA route.
With a continuance of his development, Hanley could be a very successful player at the professional level when that time comes. Hanley said that he was very comfortable playing with Columbus this past summer and would welcome an opportunity to play with them again.
“Certainly the way I see him now is as a top tier defensemen at the Division I level,” Micheletto said. “It will put him in good stead if he continues to develop [the way he has been] to become a quality pro player.”
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