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Hischier looking to pay it forward with next first overall selection

Nico Hischier speaks about the pressure of being the top pick and how Taylor Hall helped make him feel more at ease

by Amanda Stein / newjerseydevils.com

For Nico Hischier, the memories are still fresh. Although he does admit it was all kind of a blur.

"With our first selection in the 2017 entry draft, the New Jersey Devils are proud to welcome from the Halifax Mooseheads, Nico Hischier," Ray Shero, General Manager of the New Jersey Devils announced from the stage in Chicago. 

And with those words, it all began for Hischier.

Video: 1-ON-1 | Hischier on the 1st Pick

"The moment I got drafted, I can't remember it. I was just so overwhelmed." 

He would spend the next few hours and days, in a whirlwind of media, travel and exploring with his family in tow from Switzerland. All eyes were on Nico, the first-ever first overall pick in New Jersey franchise history and the first-ever Swiss-born player to take the top spot.  

"I remember the whole process [leading up to the draft]," Hischier recalled. "And then I was just there with my family, it was a good time in Chicago. It was great. I was obviously really happy, but like I really can't remember what went through my head at the time."

There is one memory, however, that is intact for Hischier. And one that paid immediate dividends. It was an unknown number that popped up on his cell phone with a text message. 

"Congrats!" it read, though Hischier can't quite remember everything else that followed. 

Soon, he would come to find out it was NHL star Taylor Hall. His new teammate. 

"That meant a lot. He shot me a text saying congrats," Hischier said. "That was pretty cool. He helped me a lot to feel comfortable right away, the way he reached out to me."

Hall was selected first in 2010 by the Edmonton Oilers. He arrived via trade to New Jersey one year before Hischier put on the Devils jersey for the first time. Already the two had something in common.

"I knew him only from watching him play," Hischier said. 

It would be the start of a unique relationship. Both he and Hall are first-overall draft picks; Hall in 2010, Hischier seven years later. Hischier immediately had a teammate to guide him through the rookie season of a first-overall draft pick and all the attention that it draws, not only at home but on the road. Hall had been through it before and was someone Nico could lean on or ask questions to. 

"[Taylor] helped me so much, on and off the ice," Hischier recalled. "He has been such a great guy for me in my first year… and now two. But in that first year he helped me a lot, I can remember when I was putting a lot of pressure on myself at the beginning [of my rookie season]. I put pressure on myself to score my first goal and he just came up to me and just told me to have fun, he told me how it took him seven games [to score his first goal] as well, and I scored my [first goal] in my seventh game as well. There are just little things he told me that really helped me."

In 2019-20, those same questions may land at Hischier's lap, an opportunity he relishes. 

"I'm pretty sure I'll do the same thing this summer," Hischier was quick to say, recalling the moment Hall's text showed up on his phone. 

It will be another big step in Hischier's development as a young leader on this Devils squad. Already several times this season, he was given the 'A' to wear on his jersey when both Hall and Kyle Palmieri were out of the lineup. Paying it forward, to whomever the Devils pick, will be the next step. Only he and Hall will truly understand what the young man is going through. Hischier knows this is an opportunity for him to pay it forward.

"I'm going to try to do my best to be a good teammate," he said. "If there's anything he needs, any advice [on handling being the number one pick], I think I can help him and I'm going to tell him. We're all excited for the organization. The thing for all the players [in the room] is we want to make him feel comfortable, that's what [the team] did for me, so I'm going to try to give it back." 

While Hischier recognizes he's only entering his third year in the league, he should have known this leadership role would come sooner rather than later.

"I saw the tweet from Hallsy, I thought that was actually pretty funny. He's kind of our lucky charm," he said.

With Edmonton and New Jersey, Hall's teams have earned the top pick for the fifth time in nine NHL seasons

"It's just an exciting time with an exciting future coming up," added Hischier. "I'm really happy and looking forward to the next few years." 

"With the first pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the New Jersey Devils are proud to select….." 

Whoever's name follows, that young man is one lucky guy.  

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