The AHL is a developmental league at its core, taking young talent and guiding it through the pro game with the ultimate goal of graduating to the NHL.
Having a team stocked with some highly decorated veterans and staff members can become an invaluable asset, and one that Serron Noel took advantage of this season.
“Overall for me, I learned so much,” said Noel. “I want to give a thank you to all the older guys, they were such a help in me learning. And obviously my coaches as well and everyone in the organization helping me progress over the year.”
A second-round pick in 2018, Noel came into his proper rookie campaign with a slight taste of the pro game thanks to an eight-game stint with Syracuse in 2020-21 - while the Checkers, among other teams, opted out of the season due to the pandemic. But it’s a big jump for a young player, especially when it comes to the grind off the ice.
“It’s the taking care of yourself and being a professional,” he said. “Making sure that you get eight hours of sleep and that you’re training and feeding your body properly. All the little things that you wouldn’t really think are important really do play a whole aspect in you being ready every night.”
Noel proved to be an important cog in this Checkers squad, notching 20 points (5g, 15a) in 64 games. Then, with the biggest games of the year looming in the postseason, Noel saw his game come together in some impressive ways.
“He showed tremendous growth,” said Checkers Head Coach Geordie Kinnear. “He’s a guy who raised his level in the playoffs. I thought he had an unbelievable playoffs and was dangerous every time he was on the ice.”
A key part of the growth that Noel showed was being truly integrated into the Florida organization in Charlotte - something he didn’t have during his time with the Tampa Bay-affiliated Syracuse Crunch last season.
“There’s so much support in every aspect, even with the trainers and the equipment managers,” said Noel. “Being in Florida’s system and being a top priority is very welcoming and it makes me feel like I’m at home and I can be myself every day.”
With year two on the horizon, Noel already has his main area of focus set for the summer.
“Consistency has been my issue since day one,” he said. “Just bringing that intensity every single night and moving my feet. That’s something that’s going to take me to the next level.”
Noel was able to pull off some stunning plays throughout the season - most notably a first-period hat trick against Texas in January - in what could be glimpses of his future. And while he searches for that consistency, patience is the key.
“Everyone’s light bulb goes on at different times,” said Kinnear. “Just because you work hard doesn’t mean it’s always going to translate right away. You have to continue to work hard, and then at some point you’re rewarded."
“I still consider myself young - I’m 21,” said Noel. “So I feel like I still have a lot more time to develop. But seeing those flashes gives me a lot of confidence knowing that if I put in the right work it will all come together hopefully.”