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Devils expect to retain No. 1 pick of 2017 Draft

New Jersey keeping options open but likely to select Brandon center Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier of Halifax

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The New Jersey Devils are open to all options, but they expect to keep the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas. 

"I've gotten calls asking if there's interest moving down and other calls where it's been more specific and it's something to think about," general manager Ray Shero said. "But I haven't called them back. The idea is we'll probably be picking, but we're open to a lot of things.

"What would it get me to trade the No. 1 pick outright? I couldn't even tell you. It hasn't been done that much, but if we did do something like that it would be pretty apparent it was the right thing to do. You have to be ready for all different scenarios in moving up or down, and in this case down."

Though there isn't a generational-type talent like Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (2015) or Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs (2016), Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier have emerged as the top players of the 2017 class. The Devils are projected to choose one of them when the draft starts at United Center in Chicago on June 23 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 will be held June 24 (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

Video: Elliotte Friedman on the Devils' draft options

Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking despite injuries limiting him to 33 games. He had 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) and was named the top professional prospect in the Canadian Hockey League.

Hischier (6-1, 178), who was born in Switzerland, had 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) in 57 games during his first season in North America and was the CHL's top rookie.

"I think Nico is a little better skater; they both are good defensively," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said. "Patrick has the size edge and both are so smart. It's all projection for us and we stress that in all our meetings. No matter what round we're picking, the guy that scores 90 points and the guy that scores 60 points must be looked at separately because there are a lot of factors that come into play. 

"Some guys get more ice time and it's no different than in the NHL. The guys with the most points are usually the guys that get the most power-play time."

Video: Weekes on what the Devils do with the first pick

One area that separates Patrick and Hischier is hockey bloodlines. Patrick's father, Stephen Patrick, played six NHL seasons. His uncle, James Patrick, played 21 seasons.

However, Castron said that can be taken different ways.

"You can spin that around and say Hischier doesn't come from a hockey family but his parents were committed to driving him to practice and getting him there," he said. "Some might say Hischier had to work twice as hard to get to where he is and perform as well as he has.

"That said, I think it would be great having a dad and uncle who played in the NHL, were both first-round picks. Patrick has been around the game at a high level, but I don't know if [pedigree] would give him an advantage."

The Devils met with both players at the NHL Scouting Combine, and Shero has spent time with Patrick at his home in Winnipeg and met with Hischier and his family in Switzerland.

"They are both great players," Shero said recently. "Patrick went through injury this year, but everybody knows he's a heck of a player and he's going to be very good. Hischier is a Swiss center with good size and talent. For us, these are two centers, two real good players. We're going to get one heck of a player and, at this point, that's what this franchise needs."

The Devils have 11 picks at the 2017 draft, including five in the first three rounds. They also could receive the Toronto Maple Leafs' third-round pick as compensation for hiring Lou Lamoriello as general manager in 2015.

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