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Hischier: 'I Want to Be a Leader. I Want to Win' | FEATURE

The Devils star center enters his first full season wearing the 'C' as the club's captain

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

After being selected with the No. 1-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils, Nico Hischier's phone blew up with text messages.

Some were from family. Some were from friends. And to his enthusiastic surprise, some were from his new Devils teammates, guys that he'd only seen on television.

"I thought that was pretty cool from players that I used to watch," he recalled on the Speak of the Devils podcast. "They texted me and that's a cool feeling. I learned that from there and I want to give that back to even younger players that get drafted."

Nowadays, it is Hischier sending the welcoming texts, both as a good new teammate, but also as the team's leader and captain. Whether it's a recently drafted Luke Hughes or a veteran signee Dougie Hamilton, Hischier makes sure to make an early connection.

"I always try to reach out to the guys and welcome them onboard," he said.

That wasn't the only thing Hischier, 22, learned about the role and duties of a captain from his earliest days in the NHL. He's been observing locker room leaders since his rookie campaign under then captain Andy Greene.

"Watching him, what he's doing on and off the ice. How he's building up relationships with all the players, even young players, even if he's a little bit older," Hischier said. "I came in as an 18-year-old. How he was treating me and helping me, all of that stuck with me. My career here so far, I've had other great examples, too. Sometimes a great leader doesn't even have to wear the C. I feel here I was able to learn things from them."

Hischier has taken in all the advice he could from Greene and other veteran players on his past teams, such as Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri to name a few. And at times leaned on their sage words after he was named the Devils captain last season.

"Last year, I had a couple games as a captain, but that's my first year," he said. "I was happy to have older guys in here to help me out, that have been longer in the league, that know more than me and I can learn from them.

"At the end of the day, I got some good advice from other former captains, from the organization, just be myself. I got (named captain) for a reason. Try not to change too much. Be yourself, do what you've been doing already."

While serving his first year as captain in 2020-21 was a highlight, there were also many low lights, in particular the 25 games he missed due to various injuries and ailments.

"It was tough for me. Nobody really wants to watch games," he explained. "You always want to play and help the team. It was a process that I had never been through in my whole career. I was never hurt that long in my whole life. It was tough mentally, too. I'll learn from it.

"Being here now in training healthy and ready to go, you appreciate it more. I probably took it too much for granted to be out there. When you miss so many games and injuries that bother you, you appreciate more when you're healthy and able to be out there with the guys."

The Swiss native has been healthy from the start of training camp, his first camp as a captain. And he's looking to set the tone and the example leading into the new season.

"It's a huge honor leading that young group," he said. "For me, I just try to be myself, not try to change things too much. Just focus on my part and help the team have success. That's what I'm trying to do every day. That's my mindset.

"Be a great guy in the locker room and help the team out on the ice."

With the captaincy, comes great responsibility. But that isn't something Hischier has ever shied away from.

"I was never afraid to be a leader. I want to be a leader. I want to win," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes. I try to play the right way every game, do the right things, do the little things that matter to win games.

"For me, what's important is also off the ice. I want guys to feel comfortable talking to me about anything, it doesn't even have to be about hockey. I just want to be there for the team and help in any way I can."

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