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Training Camp

Hischier: I'd be 'disappointed' to not make Devils out of camp

No. 1 pick in 2017 NHL Draft ready to 'work hard,' battle for roster spot

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Rookie center Nico Hischier will be "disappointed" if he doesn't make the New Jersey Devils out of training camp.

"For sure I'd be disappointed [if I didn't make the team]," Hischier said Thursday, when the Devils opened camp with medical testing and media obligations at Prudential Center. "Who wouldn't be? But I'll work hard. I'm here to try and make the team and do my best, but they're going to be honest with me and if they say it's not the time, we have to figure out another time."

Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, will play either in the NHL, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (with Halifax) or Switzerland this season; he is ineligible to play in the American Hockey League.

The 18-year-old (6-foot-1, 176 pounds) is among 57 players invited to camp. The Devils will begin practicing Saturday.

Hischier is glad to be back in New Jersey -- he visited Newark on June 26, three days after being drafted -- to begin the next phase of his career: trying to secure a position with the Devils when they open their season against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 7.

General manager Ray Shero and coach John Hynes are looking forward to watching Hischier battle for a spot in training camp.

Video: How Nico Hischier could make the Top 20 Centers list

"I want players to earn their way, and Nico is a special talent," Shero said. "We'll give him every opportunity. That's what I've been saying all along and that hasn't changed since we drafted him and brought him here for the press conference. If there's a spot, we'll see where that goes. It's a long camp so we want him to feel comfortable but if there's no plan here. We'll do what's best for him and what's best for us at the end of the day."

Said Hynes: "Players determine who makes the team. Opportunities are there for guys to make the team and if Nico is ready to play, make the team and help us win, then he's certainly going to earn that."

Left wing Taylor Hall is familiar with what Hischier is going through. When he was chosen No. 1 in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Hall had high expectations for himself.

He recalled that one of his linemates during his rookie season of 2010-11 was Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff.

"I sat beside [Horcoff] in the locker room, and learned a lot from him in my first three years there," said Hall, who had 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists) in 65 games as a rookie. "It's important that Nico is able to find guys he can relate to and he can bounce stuff off of. It's a group effort whenever you have a first overall pick like that."

Center Travis Zajac, who could miss the first four months of the season after having surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle on Aug. 17, said Hischier needs to do what has gotten him to this point in his career.

"He's just got to have fun and enjoy the game," Zajac said. "He can't take it too seriously at his age. He just needs to come to the rink, enjoy it, work hard and good things will happen. He's got to learn to become a good student; learn from the right guys and learn from the coaches. If he does that, he'll grow and become a great player."

Hischier believes he is taking that exact approach to fulfilling his dream of playing in the NHL.

"I want to go out there, battle hard and help the team forget those losses," he said. "I'm really excited to finally step on the ice and do whatever I can as a hockey player. Every preseason game will be an exciting game."

The Devils open the preseason against the Washington Capitals on Monday.

Center Brian Boyle, who signed to a two-year contract with the Devils on July 1, knows Hischier is probably going to go through growing pains but that he's in this position for a reason.

"I've always had the most success when I was having fun playing hockey," said Boyle, 32. "You get media days, testing, and things coming at you in all these different directions so it's never a comfortable day. It's a lot of stuff you probably don't want to do. But when the puck drops, go have fun and play the game.

"There's a reason he's here so he needs to enjoy it. I've never been in his situation at that age, but he probably has the maturity level and understanding of what's expected."

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