CHICAGO, IL—With the No. 1 overall pick at the 2017 NHL Draft, the New Jersey Devils selected 18 year-old Nico Hischier, a native of Naters, Switzerland.
Hischier, a center, is 6 foot and 1 inch tall and weighs 179 pounds. He is the first Swiss player in NHL history to be selected at No. 1, exceeding Nino Niederreiter, a fifth overall selection by the New York Islanders in 2010.
“On a surprise scale of one to 10, I’d have to say getting picked No. 1 was a 10 because I never expected this,” Hischier shared. “I had no idea where I was going, but just hearing my name was unbelievable… I hugged my mom first and she started to cry.”
“The Devils are an amazing team with a lot of history. I’m really happy and glad that I went first, and to be a part of this organization makes me really happy,” said Hischier.
Born into a family of athletes, Hischier played in Switzerland’s National League (in both Leagues A and B) growing up. He was an avid football (soccer) player until age 12, when he decided to focus solely on hockey.
For the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, he played with the SC Bern in National League A (NLA, Switzerland’s top professional league) under Guy Boucher, who now coaches the Ottawa Senators. His older brother, Luca, 22, currently plays in the NLA for Bern.
He made his North American debut this season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League under Andre Tourigny, who, in the past three seasons, has served two with the Colorado Avalanche and one with the Senators.
In 57 games, the rookie collected 86 points (38 goals and 48 assists), 11 power play goals and three shorthanded goals. In addition to being appointed the Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year, Hischier received the Michael Bossy Trophy, issued to the Best Professional Prospect, and the Michel Bergeron Trophy for the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
“He blocks shots, plays penalty kill, understands the game and thinks it so well. I think it’ll be hard for the Devils to say that he’s not NHL ready. They may say he’s physically not ready, but he’s going to step into camp and wow people. They’ll have a big decision on what to do at No. 1 or 2 center,” said Troy Dumville, a QMJHL specialist for NHL Central Scouting.
At the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, he posted four goals and three assists for seven points, which, according to NHL reporters, has heightened his status as a “game-breaker.”
“It was a tough decision. You spend time with the top players over the last six weeks and you get to know them personally and it becomes a tough call. But for our organization, I think Nico made sense for us. He has great playmaking ability and has the ability to make other players better, and for our franchise I felt that was the best pick, so this was a good day for us,” said Devils GM Ray Shero.
“I now have to improve my skills in the summer coming up and work out every day,” Hischier said. “I’m going to enjoy this night and [Saturday] get back to work.”
“We’ll give [him] every opportunity to make our team in training camp, and I think that is the direction we want to go. As you know, it will be apparent to us and probably to him where his game is. He’s a real good player and he’s got the smarts and he has some size to make it,” Shero said of Hischier, who will begin the team’s rookie camp in July.