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NHL Draft

5 things to know about Nico Hischier

Halifax center could be highest Switzerland-born player to be selected in NHL Draft

by Guillaume Lepage @GLepageLNH / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Center Nico Hischier joined Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season from his native Switzerland with little known about him. But now he has a chance to hear his name called first at the 2017 NHL Draft.

Hischier, 18, will take the next step in that process during the NHL Scouting Combine, which started Monday and runs through Saturday.

In addition to fitness and medical testing, Hischier will interview with 14 teams during the combine.

Hischier (6-foot-1, 176 pounds), who is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the draft, led QMJHL rookies in goals (38), assists (48) and points (86) in 57 games. He was named rookie of the year in the QMJHL and Canadian Hockey League.

Here are five more things to know about Hischier:

1. Help from the professional ranks

Hischier already has benefitted from working with 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 at the time was Guy Boucher, who was hired by the Ottawa Senators before the season and led them to the Eastern Conference Final.

"He manages the game like an adult, like a man," Boucher told the New York Times. "Great vision, great poise, but he's always in the right place defensively too, which puts him ahead of a lot of young guys. They rarely have both sides of the ice figured out, especially at that age."

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

"He helped me a lot," Hischier said of Tourigny. "He knows exactly what it takes to play in the NHL and he tells me what I need to improve. He's a very good coach. We do a lot of video so I can see what aspects of my game need the most improvement."


2. Continuing the Halifax tradition

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

"[Halifax general manager] Cam Russell deserves a lot of credit, he does a great job scouting," Tourigny said. "This team has had some success with Europeans. Only one thing is important here and that's excellence. That's the culture in Halifax."

Video: Nico Hischier Q&A from the NHL Scouting Combine

3. A long season

This season has been the busiest of Hischier's career. He played 63 regular-season and playoff games combined in the QMJHL. He also played 13 games in three international tournaments for Switzerland: three at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, and five each at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship and 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He also played at the 2017 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 30. The final total was 77 games, during which he had 111 points (48 goals, 63 assists).

One of his most impressive performances was at the WJC, when he had seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games.

"[Hischier] was the best player we've seen in this tournament," United States coach Bob Motzko said after Hischier scored two goals in a 3-2 Switzerland loss in the quarterfinals. "We tried all four lines against him and I thought he was playing every shift because every time he got out there, the ice was tilted."

Video: The guys discuss Draft prospects who are on the rise


4. A role model

Even though it was his first season in North America, Hischier quickly became an example for his Halifax teammates.

"Nico is a guy who likes to laugh, but when it's time to be serious, he is," said forward Benoit-Olivier Groulx, who is eligible for the 2018 draft. "When game time comes no one is able to distract him. He's very mentally strong.

"I've learned a lot from him on the ice and off. He's already a professional so I wouldn't be surprised if he makes the jump to the NHL next season."


5. Swiss pride

Hischier was born in Naters, Switzerland, a small town of 8,000 people in the southern part of the country, just north of the border with Italy. He could make history as the highest-drafted player from Switzerland.

Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter was selected No. 5 by the New York Islanders in 2010.

"I don't know Nino personally, but when you grow up playing hockey in Switzerland you obviously know who he is," Hischier said. "It would be special. It would make me happy to make history, but I will take it as it comes."

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