When the Edmonton Oilers selected Canadian prodigy Connor McDavid at first overall on June 26, a new era in Canadian hockey started. McDavid has been announced as the new Sidney Crosby, the next Canadian superstar. Like Canada has McDavid, every nation has its own once-in-a-century-talent. Switzerland has only produced a handful of impact NHLers such as defenders Mark Streit or Roman Josi, but the next highly-touted Swiss product could be on his way. 16-year-old Nico Hischier is considered to potentially become the best Swiss forward to ever play the game.
Hischier An Exceptional Talent
Hischier is born in 1999 which means that he is only eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft, where he should be a top prospect. Many Swiss hockey experts say that he is further in his development than Josi or Streit at that age. Hischier is a big exceptional talent in Switzerland and has already played his first games in the highest Swiss league with SC Bern. This is a very remarkable milestone as there are only a handful of 16-year-old kids every played in the Swiss National League.
Hischier started the season in the junior team of Bern but soon it was visible that he does not have any competition in this league and Bern has loaned him to Visp of the second highest Swiss team where he competed against men for the first time. He has scored a goal and an assist in seven games for Visp, which also happens to be his youth team.
Furthermore, he has scored one goal in his 15 game stretch with Bern. He scored his lone goal coming in a two-against-one rush which he executed without issues. It surely is a moment he won’t forget.
He was also part of the U20 Swiss national team at the World Junior Championship in Finland and had two assists in six games in that tournament.
Hischier is living in Bern together with his aunt and older brother Luca Hischier, who also play with SC Bern. In general, the Hischiers are a pure sports family. His father was a soccer player while his mother was a swimmer. Nico says that having an older brother doing the same profession helps him a lot.
“If I have a private problems or hockey related questions, I can ask him for advice. He has helped me a lot and I am looking up to him, he is my role model”, Nico says about his brother Luca.
Scouting Report: Nico Hischier
Nico Hischier is a very smooth skater that moves around the ice with ease. He is very agile and can make fast turns if needed. He shows decent top speed and is willing to backcheck. He is looking for opponents in the own zone and plays a decent defensive game. Although he is playing a sound defensive game, he really excels best in the offensive zone. Hischier is a very skilled playmaker and has soft hands. He is a good puckhandler and has a very well developed understanding of the game.
What I liked when seeing him play with Bern is that he wasn’t afraid to battle against much bigger and older opponents. Although he is undersized and has a tough time playing against heavier opponents, he never looked intimidated and went into board battles.
Joining the CHL?
Hischier possesses an exit clause for the Canadian Hockey League in his contract. His team SC Bern would like to see him staying with the team and taking the next step in his career in Switzerland. However, Hischier does not exclude the option to join a CHL team if he gets drafted.
“My brother has a lot of friends who went that road and they talked only in the best way, they had collected a lot of valuable experiences”.
— 2020 IIHF #WorldJuniors (@iihf_wjc) January 2, 2016
Given his smallish size and lack of strength, I would like to see him moving over to North America to join a CHL team. He would definitely benefit from the North American style of game and improve his strength. I do also believe that he has better chances to get drafted earlier if he plays his pre-draft year overseas. On the other hand, he could benefit from playing a full year against men in Switzerland if he decides to stay in Bern.
Former U18 Swiss national coach Manuele Celio on Hischier (Source: Sport.ch)
He has incredible skills to read the play. He is so often in the right position both offensively and defensively. Nico has skills which can’t be learned and which I haven’t seen with a Swiss player for a long time. He is a hard worker on and off the ice and if he continues to work hard like he does now, a big career is ahead of him.
Independent Scout covering European Hockey and Prospects for TheHockeyWriters. Located in Switzerland and blogging on www.scouting-factory.blogspot.com. Opinions on blog are my own