2016-17 Team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Date of Birth: January 4, 1999
Place of Birth: Naters, Switzerland
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 179 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2017 first-year eligible
- THW: 2nd (March)
- Future Considerations: 2nd (Spring)
- ISS: 2nd (April)
- Bob McKenzie: 2nd (April)
- Craig Button: 2nd (March)
Barring some completely unforeseen collapse, Swiss hockey history will be made at the United Center when Nico Hischier is announced very early in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The highest any Swiss player came off the board occurred in 2010 when Nino Niederreiter went fifth overall to the New York Islanders. Hischier is a near lock to go before that and a chance to be the first Swiss player ever selected first overall.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 11, 2017
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.
NHL Draft Projection
Even if you add in Miro Heiskanen as a wild-card top-three selection, Hischier will be gone in the first three picks. He is a cornerstone player that his new team will be able to build around for the next decade.
“(Hischier) was the best player we’ve seen in this tournament. We tried all four lines against him, and I thought he was playing every shift because every time he got out there, the ice was tilted. It was the first thing we said when we got into the locker room; ‘That’s the best player we’ve seen in the tournament.’” – Team USA head coach Bob Motzko
“It’s Nico versus Nolan, the most legitimate draft battle for No. 1 we’ve seen since Taylor (Hall) versus Tyler (Seguin) in 2010. It is, of course, also a massive victory for alliteration.” – Bob McKenzie
- Above-average skater
- Ability to switch gears, speed the play up or slow it down
- Excellent creativity and puck skills
- Offensive vision and awareness
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- As the best player on the ice can try to to do much
- Physical maturity
Hischier projects in the NHL as a playmaking, top-six center. That arrival could come in a few months, as he has a good chance to play in the NHL to at least begin the 2017-18 season.
Risk – 0.5/5, Reward – 4.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 9/10, Defense – 7/10
Awards/Achievements in 2016-17
- QMJHL Best Professional Prospect (Mike Bossy Trophy)
- QMJHL Rookie of the Year
- QMJHL All-Rookie Team
- QMJHL Most Assists by Rookie
- QMJHL Most Goals by Rookie
- QMJHL Most Points by Rookie
- IIHF U18 WJC Top-3 Player on Team Switzerland
- IIHF U20 WJC Top-3 Player on Team Switzerland