NEWARK, N.J. - Nico Hischier is back on the ice.
As his off-season training continues and training camp nears, Hischier has joined his fellow countrymen at the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation national team prospects camp to warm up his legs for the upcoming season.
You might not recognize him, if you're just looking for his Devils number 13. At camp, Hischier is wearing number 81 during the camp, where he is skating with two members of the Devils organization, defenseman Mirco Mueller and goaltending prospect Gilles Senn, but also his older brother Luca who plays in Switzerland for Davos HC.
"It's always nice to be able to play with him, it's cool." Hischier told Cyrill Pasche of Le Matin in Switzerland. "He was very good. I'm very happy with him, he did good things on the ice (laughs)."
Hischier garners a lot of attention where ever he goes in his home country, especially around the hockey rinks. It was a pretty big deal when Hischier was selected first overall by New Jersey in 2017, in that instant, he became the first Swiss-born player to be selected with a top pick in the NHL draft. His notoriety in Switzerland skyrocketed, where he was already high on the radar. It also helped draw more attention to the Swiss league that has long been a favorite of hockey players playing overseas.
Pasche mentions in his Le Matin piece that even at the summer prospect camp, fans turn out in droves looking for autographs and selfies.
"There is more and more enthusiasm for hockey in Switzerland," Hischier told Pasche. "It's really nice to watch it's evolution. We are really supported well by the fans."
While Hischier has been instrumental in the development of Swiss hockey, he's equally as instrumental in the resurgence of the New Jersey Devils.
As the first first-overall pick in New Jersey franchise history, Hischier has helped the organization turn over a new leaf towards an exciting future.
He is one of three first-overall picks currently on the NHL roster. Veteran Taylor Hall was selected first by Edmonton in 2010, Hischier in 2017 and just this past June, center Jack Hughes. Hischier leaned on Hall in his first year, with all the attention that a first-overall pick can attract in the first year in the NHL and Nico hopes he can return the favor when Hughes reports for training camp in September.
"I'm going to help Jack as best as I can because I've been there as well," Hischier said. "I am very happy to welcome him and to have a young player as talented as him on our team."
Hughes is just one of the new additions to the Devils roster for the 2019-20 season. With P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds and Nikita Gusev now on board as well through trades and free-agency, Hischier is ready to get back to New Jersey and kick off the season.
"I'm looking forward to the season," Hischier told Pasche. "It's really motivating for me, to see what players have been added to the Devils. I think everyone in the locker room is looking forward to next season. Our GM, Ray Shero, is really very skilled and we all have a lot of confidence in how he builds our team. "
The moves in the off-season by Devils general manager Ray Shero put New Jersey in a spot where competing for a spot in the post-season is a distinct possibility. That could mean, Hischier would be unavailable to the Swiss national team for the 2020 World Championship, which will be held in Hischier's native Switzerland. While of course Hischier would like to participate, his main focus remains on his NHL games.
"It's still far, all that," Hischier told Pasche. "My focus is 100% on my season with the Devils and I hope to go as far as possible with them. Of course, I am keeping the 2020 Worlds in Switzerland in the back of my mind and I would be happy to participate if the opportunity arises. All I can say at the moment is that my priority is the New Jersey Devils."
With files from LeMatin.ch's Cyrill Pasche