With the First Pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft the New Jersey Devils Have Selected Nico Hischier From the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL.
About Nico Hischier
Some might think this is a surprise, but over the past couple of months Hischier had closed the gap completely on Nolan Patrick. Both playing at the center position, it was really a toss-up as to who the New Jersey Devils were going to take with the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Hischier really stood out at the U20 World Junior Championship in December and with that was able to take on the role as the first pick in the draft as his stock rose.
— NHL (@NHL) June 23, 2017
With the Mooseheads last season he notched 86 points (38 goals and 48 assists) in just 57 games, but faced an early exit in the postseason seeing just six game. However, he did collect three goals and seven points in those six games and obviously that was enough to impress the Devils. This also made history as Hischier became the first Swiss player to go first overall in the NHL Draft.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt:
Hischier has been a player on the radar for the 2017 class for the last few years, but it has taken this season to catapult him to conversations for the top pick. His first crack at the North American game with the Halifax Mooseheads, who took Hischier sixth overall in the 2016 CHL import draft, allayed any fears that his game would not translate to the smaller, more physical ice surface.
His first campaign with the Mooseheads was spectacular, as he notched 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games while adjusting to a new culture and a new style of hockey. His 86 points led all rookies and placed 10th overall in QMJHL scoring. Hischier locked the down the top center role with Maxime Fortier on his wing for a deadly combination that propelled the young Halifax squad to a surprising berth in the QMJHL playoffs.
His international play is equally impressive. Hischier was better than a point-per-game player at both the WJC U18s and U20s, combining for five goals and eight assists in 10 games.
Hischier has decent size for a centerman, but it is his on-ice vision, hockey sense, and creativity that dazzles. He uses his physical attributes well and shows a strong compete level overall in all three zones of the ice. His defensive game is currently best described as solid and improving. That said, due to his elite vision, his defensive positioning and active stick are usually strong.
In the offensive zone, Hischier shines brightly. His head is up as he carries the puck up ice with above-average speed. His passing skills are among the best of the draft class, and he has a sneaky, accurate shot that he is patient with allowing the play and the goalie to open up. Over the course of the season, he ventured more into the greasy areas of the ice, but that type of area is not a comfortable place for him, as it often is not for a playmaking center. But as he is on the boards, he will work hard for 50-50 pucks, and he often comes away with them to continue the offensive pressure.
As the season progressed, Hischier for much of the time looked too good for the Q, with the play of others on the ice slowing him down. The only limiting factor to the Swiss center playing in the NHL next year is his slight frame, coming in at just 179 pounds. His young frame could be overcome, but likely adding mass to the 190 to 195 range would help Hischier survive the rigors of the professional game. Other than that minor quibble, he is offensively the best player in the draft.
With a junior contract with the NLA’s SC Bern through 2018-19, Hischier was on loan to the Mooseheads. As such, he will not be subject to the NHL/CHL transfer agreement, but it could get interesting with the NHL, NLA, AHL and QMJHL all options next year.
How This Affects the New Jersey Devils’ Plans
For a team that has lacked scoring for a number of years, Hischier brings a new element to the table with his innate offensive ability. His goal scoring will be a welcomed addition to the club and he could fit in nicely – eventually – with a winger like Taylor Hall.
Obviously, Hischier jumps right to the top of the Devils prospect pool. There is a very good chance that Hischier could find himself on the Devils opening day roster as a player that has proven he can play with players older than him.
Even as a rookie in the QMJHL he placed 10th in the league in scoring and topped all first-year players. While only time will tell, it is quite possible that Hischier not only takes the first overall spot at the draft but that he could take home next season’s Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.