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NHL Mock Draft 2017: New Jersey Devils Select Nico Hischier with No. 1 pick

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The New Jersey Devils won the first overall pick in real life, so we made the first overall pick in the 2017 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft. We chose the Swiss center from Halifax, Nico Hischier. Read on as to why he was the pick.

2017 NHL Draft Prospects Media Availability
Imagine this young man in a Devils uniform. I can. It’s glorious.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As is tradition with an upcoming draft, we at SBN performed a mock draft for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. We allowed trades and began while the Stanley Cup Finals (and the NHL Draft Combine) were ongoing. As the New Jersey Devils won the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery in real life, we went first in the mock draft. With that first selection, we chose a center from Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Nico Hischier.

I say we because I polled the six other writers who have been posting prospect profiles for the last several weeks for a truly democratic decision. With a vote of 4-3, Nico Hischier was the one. While the mock draft pick went in favor of Hischier, we will have much more to say about the Nico vs. Nolan debate on Wednesday in a special roundtable post. Please be on the lookout for that. I will admit I was one of the four that chose Hischier. Therefore, I’ll explain my thinking going into that decision.

Heading into this year’s draft, I really only knew that there wasn’t a franchise-savior. There is no prospect like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews amid the 2017’s. There isn’t a prospect like a Jack Eichel or a Patrick Laine in this year’s class. As great as it would be for the Devils to be able to select a player like them, what they really need is a highly skilled prospect. Those prospects do exist in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and at the top was the heir apparent, the projected #1 throughout 2016-17, Nolan Patrick. But as Patrick remained on the shelf, another name emerged: Nico Hischier of Halifax.

I cannot understate what Hischier did with Halifax in the QMJHL in this season. In terms of raw points, he finished tenth in the entire league with 86 and first by a lot among rookies. The nine players with more total points than Hischier were all older than him and have went through at least one draft eligible year. Per Prospect-Stats, Hischier finished seventh in the entire league with a rate of 1.21 primary points per game; most of those 86 points came from goals and primary assists. Also per Prospect-Stats, Hischier shot at a rate of 4.05 shots per game. On the rare night where Hischier wasn’t scoring, he was absolutely firing away - that points to how he generates offense. While Halifax was not that great of a team, Hischier got plenty of credit from the Q. According to Elite Prospects, the league awarded him the Most Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Best Professional Prospect Award, was named to the All-Rookie Team, and was named Rookie of the Year. Needless to say, Hischier was the best in the Q among draft eligible players. Internationally, Hischier was a standout performer for Switzerland at both the World Junior Championships as an underage player and at the World Under-18 Championships. In both tourneys, he was named a top three player on Switzerland. 2016-17 was an excellent campaign for any prospect; it’s more impressive considering this was Hischier’s first season in North America after coming over from SC Bern of the Swiss National League A.

As Hischier was piling up the points and the props, scouts had plenty to praise. Brian wrote a profile on Hischier back in early May. Hischier’s skating is a plus. Hischier is both prolific at passing and shooting the puck. Hischier is very good off the puck; he is more than just an offensive player. Hischier is willing to battle through traffic and can absolutely come out ahead. If that wasn’t enough, the NHL Combine revealed that Hischier is officially 6’1.5” - just a half-inch smaller than the other potential first overall pick. What more could Hischier do? Be a bit better at faceoffs? Put on some more mass, some more muscle. But both will be addressed by any team who will draft him. The skill set he already carries and how quickly he uses them is absolutely desirable for any kind of forward - regardless of if he’s a center or a winger at the NHL level. I mean, just look at them in this one of many highlight videos about Halifax’s #13:

To me, this is a simple argument. Hischier was the top draft-eligible player in his league, he has the production consistent of being a standout offensive player, he sparkled at the international level, and he has the tools to succeed. On it’s own, Hischier is a justifiable #1 pick in this year’s draft.

For this selection, though, I cannot ignore Patrick. While Patrick is definitely not a bad prospect or an unjustifiable #1 pick, I don’t see how he’s better than Hischier. There’s not really a size advantage; Hischier isn’t much smaller than Patrick and mass can always be added. Patrick certainly stood out when he played, but he was not the best draft-eligible player in his league. Most of all, Hischier doesn’t have two sports hernias, groin injuries, or anything of the like before he’s 18. It’s possible Patrick will be perfectly healthy in the NHL, or as perfectly healthy a NHL player can be. But Hischier doesn’t carry that risk while passing all tests with more than flying colors. This pick needs to be a success. Why should the Devils take a prospect with known risks that - and this is key - isn’t demonstrably better than all of other prospects in this year’s draft class? This pick needs to be a success, the Devils are likely going to get that with Hischier over Patrick.

That’s what led me to choose Nico over Nolan. Three others agreed, so he was our pick in this year’s SBN NHL Mock Draft. For those who still favor Nolan, you may take solace in the fact that none of our mock draft picks since 2009 were ever accurate. For those who want to read more about what all of us think about Nico vs. Nolan, then check out our roundtable on Wednesday. Let us know what you think of this mock draft pick in the poll and in the comments. Thank you for reading.

Poll

We picked Nico in the 2017 SBN NHL Mock Draft. Do you agree with our pick?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Yes.
    (949 votes)
  • 34%
    No, it should’ve been Nolan Patrick.
    (507 votes)
  • 1%
    No, it should’ve been someone else other than Nolan Patrick (specify in comments).
    (22 votes)
1478 votes total Vote Now
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