Nico Hischier finished last season on a tear and has continued that momentum into this season. He has 17 points in 15 games and has been praised by head coach Lindy Ruff for his leadership qualities and commitment to playing a 200-foot game. The former Halifax Moosehead struggled with injuries throughout the first five seasons of his young career, but now that he is healthy and playing his best hockey, he is making a strong impact on both sides of the puck.
The Selke Trophy is defined as an annual award given “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” according to the NHL. Although there is no mention of offensive metrics being involved when picking a winner, we know based on recent winners, that to be considered for this award, a player must be a competent two-way player, not just a defensive forward.
Better Late Than Never
Hischier was always viewed as a potential future Selke Trophy winner based on the skillset he possesses but injuries and inconsistent play have held him back from actually developing into that caliber of player, until now. Hischier is recording points, while also dominating in many defensive categories on the ice, propelling him into the upper echelon of two-way NHL centers, and one who may have many Selke Trophies in his future.
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“I said he would someday win the Selke and be captain of an NHL team; people laughed at me,” Arizona Coyotes’ head coach Andre Tourigny said. “I’m not sure they’re laughing now because it’s just a matter of time.”
Tourigny coached Hischier with the Halifax Moosehead in 2016-17 before Hischier entered the NHL. Hischier already accomplished one thing that his former coach predicted when he became the second youngest captain in New Jersey Devils’ history, and the second prediction may not be too far behind.
Although there are no formal Selke Trophy criteria, past winners have excelled at scoring points, winning faceoffs, takeaways, and plus/minus. Let’s dive into Hischier’s early numbers and see if he is a potential Selke Trophy contender.
A True Swiss Army Knife
Hischier has eight goals and nine assists in 17 games for the Devils this season, which is just under a 93-point pace over the course of a full 82-game season, which would shatter his previous career high of 70 points that he set last year. The Swiss center contributes in all situations, including at even strength and while on the power play and penalty kill.
The former first-overall pick is tied for first in the NHL amongst forwards with a plus-13 rating and tied for third amongst players of all positions. This is particularly impressive considering that the Devils gave up the fourth most goals in the NHL just one season ago. Hischier is also 12th in the league amongst forwards with 15 takeaways and has the seventh most faceoff wins with 190, winning at 58.3 percent.
Hischier leads the New Jersey Devils with three game-winning goals, including one in overtime that helped New Jersey extend its winning streak to eight games. Even his goals that are not game-winners seem to come at the times when they are most needed. He has been the definition of clutch early on this season.
The Devils’ power play hasn’t been great by any means this year, but it has shown some signs of improvement from last year, and Hischier has been a big reason for the upgrade. He is third on the Devils with 3:31 power-play time on ice per 60 minutes and is tied for third on the team with 11 power-play shots.
His strong defensive game has allowed Ruff to use him consistently in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. Hischier’s 63.8 percent defensive zone faceoff percentage is sixth in the league amongst players with more than 60 faceoffs. He is also second on the Devils in short-handed time on ice, and he leads the entire NHL in short-handed face-off percentage with 64.3 percent, amongst players with at least 10 short-handed faceoffs.
How Hischier Stacks Up Against Previous Winners
The previous five Selke Trophy winners are Patrice Bergeron (2022,) Aleksander Barkov (2021,) Sean Couturier (2020,) Ryan O’Reilly (2019), and Anze Kopitar (2018). To see how Hischier compares to these five, I looked at five stat categories that I believe are viewed as criteria for winning the award: points, face-off percentage, plus/minus, takeaways, and blocks.
Of course, injuries and COVID caused missed games and shortened seasons along the way, so I calculated each player’s totals for these categories over an 82-game pace to see where Hischier stacks up against them. For plus/minus, I went back to each season to track each player’s rating after the first 15 games of the season since that is a stat that typically doesn’t progress on a linear trajectory.
|Player/Year||Points (82 Game Pace)||Plus/Minus (After 15 Games)||Faceoff Percentage||Takeaways (82 Game Pace)||Blocks (82 Game Pace)|
Once I averaged all of the players’ stats and compared them to Hischier’s current pace, I found that he is on track to outperform the previous five winners stat averages in each category included.
Of course, it’s extremely early in the year, and awards aren’t won in the first few weeks of the season, but Hischier’s development has been nothing short of impressive. His personal stats are translating directly to team success, as the Devils currently sit in the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with 26 points and are tied for second in the entire NHL. Is Hischier’s current pace sustainable, as he looks to bring home his first career Selke Trophy? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.