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NHL Draft

Devils facing tough decision with No. 1 pick in Draft

NHL.com writers make case for taking Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, trading selection for assets

NHL.com @NHL

CHICAGO -- The New Jersey Devils have options with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas.

Will they choose Brandon center Nolan Patrick or Halifax center Nico Hischier, or does general manager Ray Shero receive an offer too good to refuse and trade the pick?

The first round of the draft at United Center in Chicago is Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

 

[RELATED: Who's Better: Nolan Patrick vs. Nico Hischier | Complete NHL Draft coverage]

 

It's rare to have an opportunity to select No. 1. As Shero said after winning the NHL Draft Lottery on April 29, the player chosen would be a great building block for the Devils moving forward.

Shero and Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron have kept their options open to this point. With no definitive answer in sight, NHL.com decided to take a shot at providing some feedback to those fans still on the fence about what New Jersey should do with the No. 1 pick.

Deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman, staff writer Mike G. Morreale and LNH.com staff writer Guillaume Lepage each offered his best defense of one of three separate scenarios. 

Morreale believes the Devils should select Patrick, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. Lepage feels the Devils will select Hischier, No. 2 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. It wouldn't surprise Kimelman if Shero traded the pick.

 

Draft Nolan Patrick (Morreale)

The Devils need a strong right-shot center to complement their wings, and Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) fits that bill. Adam Henrique is the only Devils center to score at least 30 goals in the past eight seasons; he scored 30 in 2015-16. The Devils have centers John Quenneville (2014 NHL Draft, No. 30), Michael McLeod (2016, No. 12) and Nathan Bastian (2016, No. 41) in the pipeline, but none can think the game at top speed like Patrick, who missed 35 games this season after sports hernia surgery but had 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games to rank 10th in the Western Hockey League with a 1.39 points-per-game average. He was fifth in the WHL with 102 points in 72 regular-season games in 2015-16, and then had 30 points in 21 playoff games and was named MVP while helping Brandon win the WHL championship. He has a powerful skating stride, knows how to use his long reach, is comfortable within a system, and will win 1-on-1 battles. A top-six center for the next 15 seasons, Patrick passed all medical tests at the NHL Scouting Combine and expects to play in the NHL next season.

Video: Debating who should go first overall in the draft

 
Draft Nico Hischier (Lepage)

The Switzerland-born forward might not be the most imposing player at 6-foot-1, 178 pounds, and he doesn't have the track record Patrick does in North America, but his excellent season in his draft year should be enough to convince the Devils to select him with the first pick. A dynamic and creative center, Hischier shined everywhere he played, from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship to the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, where he outperformed Patrick. In 77 games this season with Halifax and in various international tournaments with the Swiss national team, Hischier had 111 points (48 goals, 63 assists). The scary thing is that Hischier clearly has not reached his full offensive potential yet. The beauty of Hischier's game is that he takes his defensive responsibilities just as seriously as his offensive ones, constantly looking for ways to improve in that area. He is a dominant 200-foot player who has shown impressive maturity in crossing the Atlantic Ocean to chase his dream.

 

Trade the pick (Kimelman)

The Devils won the lottery and the right to choose first, but they should turn one winning ticket into a couple more by trading the No. 1 pick. The draft lacks the generational superstar of the past two years. No one will dispute that Patrick and Hischier are talented centers and project to be very good NHL players. But they don't have the superstar-in-waiting gifts Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews showed at the same age. Patrick and Hischier also come with question marks. With Patrick, they surround his health. Are the injury issues he had this season a bit of foreshadowing? With Hischier, it's his size. How much muscle can he put on his 6-foot-1, 178-pound frame to handle the rigors of an 82-game NHL season? New Jersey has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs five straight seasons, and their 180 goals were the third-fewest in the League, the third straight season they've been in the bottom three in scoring. No one player solves those issues. But a trade of the No. 1 pick would allow them to upgrade multiple areas at one time.

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