clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

EHM Experiments: One New Jersey Devils Team, 20 Nico Hischiers

New, comments

Nico Hischier is a great young center. What if you could clone him and have 19 other Nico Hischiers replace the skaters on the New Jersey Devils? How would they do in the 2019-20 season? This post shows how it would go down in Eastside Hockey Manager.

2020 NHL All-Star - Portraits
Nico Hischier in real life. Now imagine cloning him to replace 19 other skaters on the New Jersey Devils. A team of Nico Hischiers would be something.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Nico Hischier is a very good hockey player. Right after being drafted first overall in 2017, Hischier quickly became the center of the first line and has established himself to be worthy of such a large role. Hischier is a big part of this team’s immediate future as he will be one of the two young centers the team will build around in real life. I think it is fair to say a lot of Devils fans are fans of Nico Hischier. What if there was more than one Nico Hischier on the Devils roster? How would the team do? In this week’s Eastside Hockey Manager experiment, we will find out.

The Experiment

Take the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils roster and replace all of the non-Nico Hischier skaters with Nico Hischier. Run the 2019-20 season and see how they do.

The Approach

This experiment was initially suggested by EliasStillRocks, who wanted to see a one-skater challenge with Blake Coleman. As Coleman is now a member of Tampa Bay and Hischier won our site’s Brylin award for most versatile, ESR agreed to use Hischier instead. ESR also agreed to keep the goalies as the non-Nico Hischier players on the roster. The EHM databases do have goaltending stats for skaters - and they are almost always a rating of ‘1’ in everything. That would be the worst possible attribute value to have. It is the equivalent of five NHL skaters and an out of shape hockey blogger in the crease. Putting in Nico Hischier’s vitals and goaltending attributes in place of both Cory Schneider and MacKenzie Blackwood would all but guarantee one of the worst seasons in NHL history. I thank ESR for being willing to allow these differences.

Anyway, I finally figured out how to modify an EHM database to turn every Devil into the equivalent of Nico Hischier. For the uninitiated, this is the EHM version of Nico Hischier in the latest database from TheBlueline by xECK29x:

Nico Hischier’s profile in EHM
Nico Hischier’s profile in EHM

All attributes are out of 20. Eastside Hockey Manager has more than just the NHL so a lot of NHLers have technical, mental, and physical attributes above 10. Hischier is very good in several categories. What you do not see here but you would see in a database is his overall ability and his potential ability, which indicates how good he is in the world and how much better he could become in seasons to come. There are also other hidden attributes such as for goaltending (which are all 1 for Hischier), positional attributes (these determine if he is a natural center, a competent winger, etc. Hischier has no defensemen positional attributes.) and even staff attributes.

In order to make the all-Nico Devils, I kept Nico Hischier as-is and started to enter in the exact same attributes, height, weight, overall ability, potential ability, positional attributes, birthdate, and their names. The only thing I did not modify were their past stats, birth places, and contracts. For the names, I just stuck the player’s number after Nico to not get confused between all of the different Hischiers. In the latest database, the Devils had 22 players on the roster so by the end I had Nico Hischier and 19 other skaters with his frame, age, position, and attributes. For some reason, EHM insisted I have a defenseman and so they generated some guy that I never played to fill the roster.

The (Mostly) All Nico Devils.
The (Mostly) All Nico Devils.

Since I saw that Hischier had staffing attributes, I decided to do the same for the personnel. The chairman, coaching staff, scouts, and physiotherapists all became Nico Hischierized. Except this did not change much. While their staff attributes did get changed, other attributes related to coaching, scouting, physiotherapy, and business did not exist for Nico Hischier. I left those as-is. Strangely, their birthdates did not adjust, but no matter. The New Jersey Nicos were all-set.

The Nico Personnel of the Nico-Laden Devils
The Nico Personnel of the Nico-Laden Devils

As for the experiment itself, I decided to keep to many of the same rules from other experiments. I could not make trades or make any waiver wire pickups. I could only call up players from Binghamton if I did not have 20 healthy players. Since ESR agreed to not turn the goalies into Nico, I vowed to stick with Schneider and Blackwood. Lastly, the GM for this game would appropriately be named Nico Hischier.

The Experiment Results: The Regular Season

After beginning the save, I received my initial expectations. Ownership expected a playoff appearance. The fans were disappointed in Nico Hischier as a GM. Perhaps they were still reeling from the shock that would come in discovering your entire team is effectively one player and his clones.

Preseason went by and not much happened. The team did quite well and there were few injuries. Everyone was in shape and ready for the season. The media did not rank Hischier as a top center. Due to not changing a player’s past and making everyone 20 years old, they did dominate the top prospect list:

The media predicted top prospect list. Fortified with Vitamin Nico.
The media predicted top prospect list. Fortified with Vitamin Nico.

In terms of what to expect on the ice for a team full of centers that could play either wing in a pinch but would not be expected to play defense, here were the unit evaluations by the Hischier coaching staff. Pay no mind to the date in the photo, this was the same at the start of the season as it was here:

The Nico Hischier unit tactics
The Nico Hischier unit tactics

Even though Hischier is not a natural or even competent defenseman, a five-man unit of Hischiers would be quite good. They would crumble in a physical matchup. However, they would be too busy darting around most opponents, utilizing their fantastic skill to handle things in both ends. I told the units to play offensively at evens, rarely dump the puck except on penalty kills, and play fast with creative passing and heavy shooting in general. I figured every unit had such a high skill along with very good offense and defense, so a strong offense would be its own defense. Somehow, MacKenzie Blackwood ended up as #1 but whatever. I turned out to be right from a tactical point of view, which was the only thing I did as I left the actual in-game coaching to NicoHC Hischier.

The All-Nico Devils went off on a hot start and it was apparent that four lines of first-line caliber centers would just overwhelm teams with offense. Case in point, the biggest win of the regular season:

The biggest win of the regular season. Seriously.
The biggest win of the regular season. Seriously.

The Hischiers often outshot opponents by at least 20 and often outscored them by at least three. There were certainly some close games that needed overtime or a shootout. There were even some losses. But more often than not, the Skating Hischiers were slicing through opponents like a hammer.

About ten games in, I noticed the inherent variation among the 20 Hischiers. Some were absolutely wonderful. Some were a bit below average. But as you would expect, no individual Hischier was bad. What it did mean is that when someone did have a rough game, then I could swap them out with another Nico Hischier since, hey, they are all the same player. What was more strange was that over time, Schneider started to put up better numbers than Blackwood. It did not matter much as the Nico Squad just lit up opponents over and over.

The excellence continued throughout the season. They started the season with an 8-2-0 October. They entered November just behind Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan with a 18-7-0 record, only behind by three points with two games in hand. When the calendar flipped to 2020, the New Jersey Hischiers were atop the East with 59 points and a 29-9-1 record. Only St. Louis was close to them in the President’s Trophy race. And it was indeed a race to the end on that front. Still, the 18-Wheelers of Hischiers never looked back. They owned the East. Despite a total snubbing at the NHL All-Star Game, they continued to dominate. Despite few teams even inquiring into trying to acquire one of the Nico Hischiers, they were strong as ever. On March 7, 2020, New Jersey and St. Louis clinched a playoff spot.

Playoffs achieved a week into March.
Playoffs achieved a week into March.

The Total Hischiers had 109 points in 68 games with a 53-12-3 record, riding an 11 game winning streak at the time. Did Nico say, “Hey, let’s slow this down?” No. Not at all. The Nico Collective continued their standard of excellence all the way through the end. Even giving Schneider a few extra starts did not hurt - which is not a surprise in retrospect since he had a better season than Blackwood. The Blues put up a valiant effort, but the Nicos took the President’s Trophy in the final week of the season. Here are the season ending results:

The Hischier Unit put up the league’s best record.
The Hischier Unit put up the league’s best record.

New Jersey was just heads and shoulders above everyone else. The emphasis of offense worked wonderfully. After all, they did outscore their opposition by a total of 140 goals. Even when there were injuries, there was another player with Nico Hischier’s attributes ready to step in. Thankfully and fortunately, there was no situation where a call up was needed.

The top 24 NHL scorers, led by a Hischier
The top 24 NHL scorers, led by a Hischier

Nico21 Hischier ended up being the most prolific scorer in the NHL. He even outscored the original Nico Hischier and out-produced others on the team by a large margin. Nico21 stayed on the top line and the top power play unit, and why not? He just kept banging them in. It is odd to type that there was a Hischier better than the original, but that was the case on this team.

Even though all of the Hischiers were 21 years old by season’s end, the fact I did not change anyone’s past meant there were additional rookies on the squad. Namely, Nico97 Hischier, who led all rookies in the NHL in scoring. He was joined by Nico41, Nico86, and Nico2, who all finished in the top 11 for rookies with at least 43 points each.

Top players in the NHL by average rating.
Top players in the NHL by average rating.

Nico21 and Nico97 were among the very best players in the NHL. They both averaged above an eight rating all season long on top of producing a lot of points, shooting a lot of pucks, and playing in every game. This view shows the top 24. Several other Hischier clones made the top 50. Nico14 finished 25th at 7.85; Nico5 finished tied for 36th at 7.76; Nico86 finished tied for 38th at 7.74; Nico41 and Nico37 both tied for 43rd at 7.72; and Nico44 came in 48th at 7.70. There were many exceptional versions of Nico Hischier on this nearly-completely Hischier version of the Devils. Again, they were all better than the Nico Hischier they were based on.

By the way, Cory Schneider finished the season with an average rating of 7.38 and a save percentage of 90.3%, which was enough to place him in the top 50 goaltenders in the NHL. Blackwood had an average rating of 7.28 and a save percentage of 89.5%, where he did not place. Strange.

Here were the point totals and average ratings for all of the Hischiers:

The point totals and average ratings for the team of Nicos.
The point totals and average ratings for the team of Nicos.

The worst version of Nico Hischier was Nico 25, who must have played defense given his 89 shots and one goal. He still averaged a 7.2, which is still pretty good. One final postscript: Nico32 did something I never seen in an EHM game. He received a game rating of 2 for taking a match penalty in the second period in a 4-3 win over Washington. He was fine until he did whatever he did to get a match penalty. There was no additional call. He was suspended for two games. Then he returned to being good and not taking bizarre match penalties.

The team was an offensive force in the regular season. What about the postseason?

The Experiment Results: The Regular Season

Ahead of the playoffs, Schneider stated he intended to retire at the end of the season due to his age. He’s 34. That is not very old for a goalie, but it is what it is. I decided to have fun with his potential send off in the postseason, as you will see.

The first round was a match-up against Our Hated Rivals. This was not a blowout of a series, but the Hischiers gloriously swept New York. A 5-3 win in Game 1, a 4-2 win in Game 2, a 3-2 OT win (67 minutes) in Game 3, and a 4-2 win Game 4. Of note, Schneider started Game 4. I decided that he would start at least one game in each series, usually the clincher. He did not disappoint.

The second round saw the Hischier Alliance play Pittsburgh. The first two games were split. NJ won Game 1 comfortably 4-1 while Pittsburgh prevailed 4-3 in Game 2. But the offense rose up again in Games 3 and 4 as the Nico Jerseyans won those games 5-2 and 5-4, respectively. Schneider came in for Game 5 and held onto a one-goal lead by the end of regulation to send the Devils onto the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tampa Bay entered these finals fresh of a six-game series win over Buffalo that ended with a 7-0 win. Hischier and His Clones decided to teach the Bolts a thing or two about scoring goals. Game 1 saw them shred Vasilevskiy in a 5-1 win. Tampa Bay achieved revenge with a 6-3 win to even up the series. Game 3 turned out to be crucial. Not only did the Devils 5-2, but Vasilevskiy was injured near the end of the game. This meant Tampa Bay’s goaltending tandem was Curtis McElhinney and Cale Morris. 20 Nico Hischiers smiled at the possibilities. They took full advantage with a 7-1 win in Game 4. They went above and beyond that by punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 10-1 win (an easy game for Schneider) in Game 5.

Their opponents: St. Louis. The best team in the Western Conference and the team that finished just three points behind the Almost Entirely Nico Devils. In theory, a grand epic matchup could happen. In practice, the Gaggle of Hischiers had another idea. What if they just crushed St. Louis in four games? And so they did. 4-1 in Game 1, 3-1 in Game 2, 4-1 in Game 3 (this was Schneider’s game as Games 2 and 3 were back to back), and 6-3 in Game 4. By the end of May 31, Nico Hischier raised Lord Stanley’s Cup and passed it around to all of the other Nico Hischiers as management also named Nico Hischier were ecstatic. Jersey sales went up, which earned even more of a profit as the team could get a quantity discount on nameplates.

2020 Playoff Tree - the march of the Hischiers
2020 Playoff Tree - the march of the Hischiers

Believe it or not, but the league’s leading playoff scorer was not a Hischier. It was Tarasenko, who put up a whopping 18 goals and 6 assists in 19 games. Nico32, Nico97, and Schmaltz all finished behind him with 21 points respectively. As you would expect, the top scorer list is filled with Devils, but Tarasenko ruled all. In terms of average rating, New Jersey did lead there. The best performer in the playoffs was Nico41 with an average rating of 8.40. On top of that Blackwood did well, much better than he was in the regular season; and Schneider was perfect in his limited usage.

The Battlin’ Hischiers organized by average rating
The Battlin’ Hischiers organized by average rating

Eight Devils finished well above an average rating of eight, which is absolutely sensational. Schneider and seven different versions of Hischier throughout the lineup. Surprisingly, Original Nico was one of the poorer performers - and he put up 18 points and his average rating was a still pretty good 7.33. Only one Nico clone was actually below good - Nico33 - but the majority of the roster had an average rating over 7.5. That is excellent.

The Numerous Nicos rampaged through the regular season and the postseason for a Stanley Cup. Despite none of the players having a positional rating as a defenseman at all, they defended quite well. Despite being a team full of natural centers, they were an offensive powerhouse. Despite rolling with Schneider-Blackwood, they did enough to support the 20 Nicos in front of them. Surely, they would clean up at the NHL Awards, right?

The Experiment Results: The NHL Awards

Not quite, but it went better than last week’s experiment:

  • Art Ross Trophy: Nico21 with 99 points
  • Rocket Richard Trophy: Ovechkin - Nico21 finished third with 42 goals
  • Calder Memorial Trophy: Nico97
  • King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Nico21 with an average rating of 8.24
  • Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Nico21; Original Nico finished second
  • GM of the Year: Nico Hischier
  • Jack Adams Award: NicoHC
  • Hart Memorial Trophy: Gaudreau - Nico21 finished third
  • Conn Smythe Trophy: Nico21 - Nico32 finished second, Nico97 finished third
  • Bill Masterton Trophy: Pastrnak - Nico37 finished second
  • NHL First All-Star Team: Nico21
  • NHL All-Rookie Team: Nico97

This squad received more accolades. I’m wondering whether all of them being centers meant only one was going to make the NHL All-Star team and one was only going to make the All-Rookie Team. Still, the choices made sense. The clone that was Nico21 was superb. The clone that was Nico97 was the best of all the rookies. Other Nicos got recognition. I am fine with it.

Experiment Conclusions

A pure experiment of All Nicos Including Goaltenders would result in a team that cannot buy a save. Doing this with Schneider-Blackwood was a fair compromise as they were not known brick walls in EHM to buoy a poor team. It resulted in a dominant team that just wrecked opponents provided they did not run into a hot goalie or have the odd off night. While they were not as dominant as some of the other teams in past EHM Experiments, they were still fantastic.

The most interesting thing about this experiment was that the various Nico Hischiers had a range of best in the league to solid but not amazing. Even playing out of position, they were able to do their job. The game, which thought I did not have a valid roster for every game despite having 20 dressed players, did recognize that Hischier could play defense well regardless of position. Likewise, it recognized that even those lined up at defense can also support an offense from distance. It speaks to Hischier’s versatility as well as his talents, as identified in the game. In real life, a team of Nico Hischier and 17 copies on any given night would likely hit a lot of struggles. It would be unbalanced and a player who has been playing a position like wing or defense all his life could take advantage of someone who is there just to be there. But in the world of EHM, it worked and worked wonderfully.

The Next Experiment?

Thank you again to EliasStillRocks for suggesting the initial idea, agreeing to my changes, and being patient as I figured out how to do it. It was a successful experiment.

Now I want to know what you want to see next. The floor is open for suggestions for EHM experiments. If there are none, then I’ll come up with something for next week. Please leave your suggestions in the comments. Also, feel free to share your reaction to this week’s EHM Experiment. Did you expect the New Jersey Hischier-Devils to do so well? Thank you for reading.