By: Leo Scaglione Jr., Pinch-Hitting For the Maven
For weeks — if not months — the debate has raged.
Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, with Gabe Vilardi galloping strong in third place.
An assortment of experts leaned toward Patrick, a 6-foot-3, 198-pound center who made his name with the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings. International Scouting Services (ISS) ranked him first overall.
Nevertheless, a very strong minority bloc lobbied for Hischier, the Swiss-born pivot who made many headlines for the Halifax Mooseheads. Weighing in at 6-feet, 174 pounds, Nifty Nico was ranked second by the ISS savants.
And when all was said and done, Shero opted for Hischier while runner-up Patrick went to the rival Philadelphia Flyers.
Nico was ecstatic about being selected first overall, and couldn’t find the right words to describe it. That alone was the perfect summary.
“I can’t describe it,” Nico enthused. “I can’t describe it. I hugged my mom first. There is a lot of emotion.”
Hischier was tickled pink to be The Man the Garden Staters most wanted and wasted no time telling the media horde why.
“It’s great,” Hischier said. “It’s such an amazing team with a lot of history. It’s just awesome. I’m really happy to be a part of the organization. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hischier didn’t want to focus on one NHL club, but he did know some Devils’ history.
“I didn’t have any expectation,” he said. “I knew Damien Brunner was a Swiss guy who played there for a little. Martin Brodeur and those guys, they have a good history there.”
Nico said there was no indication that the Devils were going to select him.
“I didn’t know anything,” he stated.
Although he was ranked second, he came on strong with a magnificent performance at the World Junior Championship and overall with the Mooseheads.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I had a good season in Halifax. I was playing well and just tried to keep it up.”
In the process, Hischier became the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history.
“Switzerland does a great job of developing players,” he stated. “For me, it means a lot.”
In 2015, it was Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, captured by Edmonton and Buffalo, respectively. Last year, Toronto got lucky with Auston Matthews while Winnipeg followed through, taking Patrik Laine.
But, you never know and that’s why Shero will return to Newark hoping that his selection on Hischier turns out to be somewhere between a McDavid and Laine.