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Hischier on Devils opener Saturday: 'I expect to win'

No. 1 pick in 2017 NHL Draft confident heading into League debut against Avalanche

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

NEWARK, N.J. -- Center Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, is looking for nothing less than a victory when he makes his NHL debut for the New Jersey Devils against the Colorado Avalanche at Prudential Center on Saturday (2 p.m. ET; SN, MSG+, ALT, NHL.TV).

"I expect to win," he said after practice Friday. "I expect a good team effort to get those two points; that's all we want. I'm really looking forward to the win."

That's precisely the attitude coach John Hynes wants to see.

"Those type answers are the things we talk about when we say we like his personality and how he is," Hynes said. "It's not about him, it's about the team. He's a young player who has come in here and he's extremely excited to be a Devil, but he's got a lot of pride. As a player, he wants to turn this thing around to be on a winning team, re-energize the franchise and get us back to a team that has respect and is tough to play against. I think when you get an answer like that, that's truly what's in his heart."

Hischier (6-foot-1, 176 pounds), who likely will play second-line center between left wing Marcus Johansson and right wing Drew Stafford, isn't the only New Jersey player hoping for a positive result in their season opener.

Video: NJD@WSH: Hischier fires one short side past Holtby

Last season, the Devils finished 28th in the NHL in goals (180) and tied for last in goals at 5-on-5 (114). They were 29th in shots per game (27.8), 22nd on the power play (17.5 percent), and finished last in the Eastern Conference (28-40-14).

"Hopefully all the guys think the same way Nico does, and while this is his first NHL game, that's the way he's always been," general manager Ray Shero said. "It's never been about his game, if he had points in the preseason, but so long as we won the game he was happy. I always like hearing that."

Hischer had seven points (four goals, three assists) in four preseason games and said he's ready for his first NHL season to begin.

"I'm feeling really good and really excited about [Saturday]; finally it's here and I'm looking forward to it," Hischier said. "I don't feel the nerves yet. I'm calm right now, but on that first shift I might be a little nervous but then I'll settle down; it's just another hockey game."

Hynes said he has no doubt Hischier will be up to the task.

"It's nice when you can have a young player who has shown to this point that he can handle the responsibilities and play with older players," Hynes said, "but part of the reason we have him [at center] is because he's shown he can do that.

"He has the hockey IQ, competitiveness and awareness of a player being able to be who he is, and not have to rely on others. But when you have complementary players who can talk with you and deal with you the right way, it can always help a young guy, particularly an 18-year-old."

Hischier's mother, Katja, and father, Rino, will be at Prudential Center. He also should anticipate some chants of "Nico!" from the rest of the hometown fans.

"Each day he comes in here he gets more comfortable and confident, in a good way, not cocky," captain Andy Greene said. "On the ice he's doing the exact same thing. He's taking control of his line already as an 18-year-old kid. He's our future here, and it's important that it comes naturally. He's not trying to force things or trying to be something he's not."

Johansson was asked what has impressed him the most about Hischier.

"Everything; I've seen no weaknesses in his game so far," Johansson said. "He's such a good all-around player. He's got so much hockey sense, and he knows where to be at the right time. That's a big thing for a young player."

Hischier said his most significant takeaway from training camp was adjusting to the NHL and getting to know his teammates and coaches.

"It was important to get to know the boys better and understand Devils hockey and how we want to play," he said. "I feel comfortable now and have the systems in my head, so I can play Devils hockey."

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