One of the many storylines heading into the beginning of the 2021-22 season for the New Jersey Devils was how Nico Hischier would bounce back after missing most of the 2021 shortened season. His campaign before that in 2019-20 had to be considered disappointing as well, with just 36 points in 58 games, setting hm at his lowest points per game scoring pace of his young career. With a young team surrounding the captain, fans wanted to see how he would respond.
To be honest, 2021-22 started off just...average for Nico. He posted five points in his first 10 contests, and only one of those points was a goal. While no one could say that the Devils should have selected Nolan Patrick back in 2017, the criticism that Hischier was still an average second line center at best began to linger. As the season went on, and Nico settled in more he began to look like his usually complementary self, climbing to a steady 36 points in 50 games. While he still fell behind Jack Hughes on the depth chart (and scoring at that point in early March), he was contributing efficiently.
And then he got hurt.
Nico went down with a minor injury after March 6’s game; he would miss the next couple of contests, but would return just over a week later on March 16th. He was held without a point in that contest, but after that, something happened. Nico Hischier became electric.
In the 14 games he has played in following that March 15th game in Vancouver, Hischier has posted 19 points. While again maybe some would want the goal output in that stretch to be higher (only four tallies), the 15 assists bode well for a Devils team that has struggled this year, because that means 15 other times someone else on the team buried the puck in the net. Not only is that latter point encouraging for the team around him, but for Hischier to finally be pumping out points as he enters the prime of his career should be regarded as a good sign among Devils fans.
Nico now sits at 57 points in his 64 appearances this season, and he has set career highs in assists and points during this campaign. His next goal will also be a new career high for goals in a season as well, meaning this could wind up being a career year for him in every points category. As I looked over his stat line, it go me wondering; could Nico reach a point per game pace before 2021-22 closes?
It’s said on almost a weekly basis how disappointing this New Jersey Devils season has been. However, if Nico, Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt (as long as he stays on pace) all were to finish at a PPG or above, would that not be an encouraging sign? Would it not be ay least one reason to look back on 2021-22 fondly? With nine games still to go on the schedule, and the possibility of teams who have qualified for the playoffs resting their regulars, there’s a chance Nico cane make up the ground.
For him to do this, he would need to contribute 16 points in the team’s final nine games while appearing in all of them. That equates to him scoring at a 1.77 PPG pace, which is quite a bit higher than the 1.36 PPG pace he has been on during the last 14 contests. Is it possible? Absolutely it is; though it doesn’t exactly happen with regularity, we’ve seen players score at that pace before. Is it likely? That’s where the pessimism starts to seep in.
After thinking about it and seeing that 1.77 number, I think it’s a longshot to see Hischier hit PPG this season. At the same time, I don’t think that this is the last time Nico will come close to those numbers. The Devils need an overhaul this offseason, but they’ve found out who some of their core pieces are for sure if they didn’t know already. If you want a hint as to who they are, I would focus on the six players on this list who rank the highest in scoring. While a couple of others who have missed time (Douige Hamilton) or aren’t known for their offense (Jonas Siegenthaler, Ryan Graves) can be put in with that group as well, it also shows who may deserve an extended look (Jesper Boqvist, Fabian Zetterlund) and who could be expendable to the team (I leave this last group up to all of you) next season.
Nico Hischier may not get to be a point per game player just yet. But this season should have silenced a lot of his doubters and proven his worth to this franchise going forward. At the end of the day, maybe that winds up being more important.
What are your thoughts on Hischier’s 2021-22 season; do you think he finds a way to stay red-hot and finish at a point per game pace? Do you think this season has silenced his critics? Is the growth shown by Hischier/Hughes/Bratt enough to have you optimistic that next season will be different? Leave any and all comment below and thanks as always for reading!