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NHL Draft

Nico Hischier selected by Devils with top pick of 2017 Draft

Center chosen by New Jersey is first Switzerland-born player taken No. 1

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Nico Hischier couldn't find the words to express how he felt about becoming the highest-drafted Switzerland-born player in history when chosen No. 1 by the New Jersey Devils at the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas at United Center on Friday.

"On a surprise scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to say getting picked No. 1 was a 10 because I never expected this," the 18-year-old center said.

The previous high for a Swiss player was Nino Niederreiter, a forward who was the No. 5 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders.

 

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"I had no idea where I was going, but just hearing my name was unbelievable," Hischier said. "I hugged my mom first and she started to cry."

Hischier completed his first season in North America with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists), 11 power-play goals and three shorthanded goals in 57 games.

New Jersey general manager Ray Shero was the first to congratulate him when he reached the stage to put on his Devils jersey.

"[He] said he was really glad to welcome me and that I deserved it," Hischier said.

Video: Steve chats with the first overall pick Nico Hischier

The 6-foot-1, 178-pound left-shot center, and right-shot center Nolan Patrick (6-2, 198) were considered to be the top two players available. Patrick was selected No. 2 by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Dallas Stars picked defenseman Miro Heiskanen of HIFK (Finland) No. 3, and the Colorado Avalanche chose defenseman Cale Makar of Brooks (AJHL) No. 4.

"It was a tough decision," Shero said. "You spend time with the top players over the last six weeks and you get to know them personally and it becomes a tough call. But for our organization, I think Nico made sense for us. He has great playmaking ability and has the ability to make other players better, and for our franchise I felt that was the best pick, so this was a good day for us."

Hischier said, "The Devils are an amazing team with a lot of history. I'm really happy and glad that I went first, and to be a part of this organization makes me really happy."

He was asked about the pending rivalry between him and Patrick in the Metropolitan Division.

"It would be good to play against Nolan in the future," Hischier said. "He's a great guy. When I was picked, he congratulated me and was a really classy guy. I appreciated that. Not a lot of guys would do that."

Patrick was limited to 33 games because of a sports hernia but averaged 1.39 points per game for Brandon in the Western Hockey League.

"I didn't know where I was going to go, but I kind of had a feeling I was going to end up in [Philadelphia], and that's a place I'd be really excited if I had a chance to go there," Patrick said. "It's tough to put into words right now, but it's a special day for me and my family."

Hischier is the fifth Halifax forward picked in the top 10 in the past five years, following Nathan MacKinnon (No. 1, Colorado Avalanche) in 2013, Jonathan Drouin (No. 3, Tampa Bay Lightning) in 2013, Nikolaj Ehlers (No. 9, Winnipeg Jets) in 2014, and Timo Meier (No. 9, San Jose Sharks) in 2015.

Hischier was awarded the Michael Bossy Trophy (Best Professional Prospect) and Michel Bergeron Trophy (Offensive Rookie of the Year) by the QMJHL this season, and was named the Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year.

Video: Nico Hischier on joining the Devils

"I had a good season in Halifax and knew I was playing well," Hischier said. "I tried to keep it up and work hard until the end of the season, and [I'm] so happy it ended like this."

Troy Dumville, who specializes in evaluating draft-eligible prospects from the QMJHL for NHL Central Scouting, said a good comparison for Hischier would be Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom.

"He blocks shots, plays penalty kill, understands the game and thinks it so well," Dumville said. "I think it'll be hard for the Devils to say that he's not NHL ready. They may say he's physically not ready, but he's going to step into camp and wow people. They'll have a big decision on what to do at No. 1 or 2 center."

Hischier has been mentored by two coaches with NHL experience. Last season, He played 15 games with Bern in National League A, the top professional league in Switzerland. Bern's coach was Guy Boucher, who was hired by the Ottawa Senators before the 2016-17 NHL season and helped them reach the Eastern Conference Final.

This season with Halifax, Hischier was coached by Andre Tourigny, who spent the three previous seasons as an assistant in the NHL, two with the Colorado Avalanche and one with the Senators.

Hischier's performance for Switzerland at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, when he scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games helped bolster his reputation as a game-breaker.

Video: Devils draft F Nico Hischier No. 1

"I now have to improve my skills in the summer coming up and work out every day," he said. "I'm going to enjoy this night and [Saturday] get back to work."

Shero said he is looking forward to watching Hischier in rookie camp in July.

"We'll give [him] every opportunity to make our team in training camp, and I think that is the direction we want to go," Shero said. "As you know, it will be apparent to us and probably to him where his game is. He's a real good player and he's got the smarts and he has some size to make it."

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