NEWARK, N.J. -- Nico Hischier has a good idea of what Jack Hughes might be going through as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft during his first training camp with the New Jersey Devils.
The best advice Hischier, the No. 1 pick by New Jersey in the 2017 NHL Draft, can offer Hughes is to play his game and not become distracted by anything unrelated to the Devils.
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"I'd say probably try to focus on the game as much as you can, listen to what people and coaches say here in the locker room and try to ignore anything else," Hischier said. "I know it's tough, but that's the way I tried to do it my first year and it worked out well for me. For me, it was always just caring about what was going on around here and what coaches and teammates had to say.
"He's here for a reason, and don't be shy about playing your game and having fun. I think he's going to be fine. He's going to be good and we're happy to have him."
Hischier has done very well since entering the NHL as a rookie in 2017-18; the 20-year-old center has 99 points (37 goals, 62 assists) in 151 games. He's looking forward to getting the season started after all the offseason moves made by the Devils that began with the selection of Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the draft June 21. They also acquired defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators the next day, signed forward Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5 million contract July 1 and acquired forward Nikita Gusev in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 29 before signing him to a two-year, $9 million contract the same day.
"I was really excited to hear the news and now I'm really pumped to get this thing going," Hischier said.
Hischier discussed the Devils offseason and outlook for 2019-20 in an interview with NHL.com.
What goals have you set for yourself as you begin your third NHL season?
"Probably to take another step and feel more comfortable in this league. I'll try to be a leader on the team and help the team win; it's nothing new for me. I've been here for three years now and I kind of know everybody and kind of know everything. It's time to take another step in every area of my game. I want to be a better player, and obviously, get to those Stanley Cup Playoffs."
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What excites you about the roster entering the season?
"On paper, we're a better team than last year. I got a good feeling; the excitement is there for sure. I think you have to earn your spot here now, and it's just fun to have this competition and to be able to play with such good players no matter what line you're on. Everybody has to do things in order for this team to be successful, but we want to play fast, want to play tenacious. I think every team in the NHL has really good players, but those teams who go far in the playoffs have an identity from Day One until the end. That's what we have to get to in order to become more consistent."
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What did you work on this offseason and where did you skate?
"I was in Bern (Switzerland), where I usually train, skating with (Nashville Predators) defensemen Yannick Weber, and Roman Josi was there for a little bit too. A few skating coaches came in and I also worked on face-offs and my one-timers. Those were areas I needed to improve."
How does coach John Hynes motivate you and the team?
"Honestly, he finds the right words all the time to get us going in certain situations. It's not always the same thing before games, but between periods and before games, he somehow always finds the right words. It's a good mix between telling us something about our identity. We all know what we have to do before games. It should be in our mindset with how we want to play and what we need to do in order to do it the right way, but he gets us going and gets us focused when we need that reminder."
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Which NHL Award do you think you might have the best chance of winning if you were a finalist for such an award at the end of the season?
"I'm not really thinking about such high expectations like that. I try to not ever put myself in that category of high expectations. I just want to keep it simple and my expectations are to help this team win and help us go far in the playoffs. I just want to focus on my game, think about myself and how I can get better. But I guess I have to give you an answer, so with the way I try and play the game, I think it definitely would be the Selke Trophy if I had to pick one. I'm always trying to be a good two-way forward, someone who works hard at both ends. Honestly though, I never really think about that."