The Devils have made their choice for the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. They went with Nico Hischier, the 6-foot, 1-inch, 178-pound center from the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Swiss-born player becomes the highest ever draft pick from that nation, surpassing Nino Niederreiter – who was taken fifth overall by the Islanders in 2010.
The choice for top pick was down to two players, Hischier and Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick (who went second overall to the Philadelphia Flyers, likely the easiest pick in this year’s draft).
According to an article by Mike Morreale on NHL.com, Devils general manager Ray Shero did not feel the pick was easy, but does think Hischier “is the player New Jersey needs down the middle for the foreseeable future.”
For Hischier’s part, he is excited to be the number one overall pick and to be in New Jersey. He told Morreale “Just hearing my name was just unbelievable; I can’t find words for this. I hugged my mom first and she started to cry. It’s really special to wear this Devils jersey and it looks great. It probably won’t sink in until after I get a good sleep.”
Morreale mentions that Adam Henrique was the only Devil “center to score at least 30 goals in any of the past eight seasons, he scored 30 in 2015-16.” Morreale says that “Hischier’s elite skill and hockey sense, combined with a compete level that allows him to be effective in any style of game, are reasons Shero made the decision to select him.”
One interesting fact that Morreale also gives in his NHL.com piece is that “HIschier has been mentored by two coaches with NHL experience.” Guy Boucher (most recently of the Ottawa Senators) was his coach with Bern in Switzerland’s top pro league (National League A) and Andre Tourigny (who has spent time as an assistant in the NHL with Colorado and San Jose)coached him in Halifax this past season.
The native of Naters, Switzerland should slot right into the Devils’ lineup this coming season. In last year’s QMJHL season, he won the Michael Bossy Trophy as the Best Professional Prospect and the Michel Bergeron Trophy as the Offensive Rookie of the Year) – this info comes from Morreale’s article.
Morreale’s article mentions that the Halifax program is a good one. The Mooseheads have produced five picks in the top ten of the Draft in the last five years: Nathan MacKinnon (who went first overall to the Colorado Avalanche in 2013), Jonathan Drouin (who went number three overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013), Nikolaj Ehlers (number nine overall to the Winnipeg Jets in 2014) and Timo Meier (number nine to the San Jose Sharks in 2015).
Devils fan reactions seemed to be pretty unanimous in favor of Hischier at the team draft party held tonight in conjunction with the Draft. Unlike with the new jerseys, which have gotten a mixed reaction at best, this one seems like a good choice that fans like.
While there might still be some holdouts who wanted Patrick, most seemed to be fine with Shero and Director of Amateur Scouting Paul Castron’s decision. Of course, in this strange draft year, Patrick is now immediately the enemy by going to Philly.
Hopefully, though, they both have great NHL careers and the best of luck to them as they embark on this part of their hockey lives.
The 2017 NHL Entry Draft continues tomorrow from the United Center in Chicago.