New Jersey Devils: Don’t Regret Nico Hischier Draft Pick

Nico Hischier, Miro Heiskanen, and Nolan Patrick. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Nico Hischier, Miro Heiskanen, and Nolan Patrick. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

There’s always going to be revisionist history in sports. The NHL Draft is a prime suspect for it. While some people are thrilled with getting a superstar wherever they pick, there are other picks that are constantly scrutinized. Pavel Zacha is a decent player for the New Jersey Devils, but because he was taken sixth overall in 2015 there is a different expectation. Now, fans will list Mathew Barzal, Ivan Provorov, and Zach Werenski as possibilities instead of Zacha because they were drafted after him.

Now, since people are starting to get tired of ragging on Zacha after he had his best season in the NHL, the hate is turning to Nico Hischier. The former first-overall pick is not the best player in the 2017 NHL Draft at this point. That glory probably goes to Cale Makar. He’s also not the second-best player in the draft. That would be Miro Heiskanen. Third best in the draft? That’s Elias Pettersson.

Hischier is clearly the fourth-best player in this draft. He’s well ahead of everyone behind him and he’s somewhat behind the guys in front of him. After an underwhelming season thanks to multiple injuries and a bout with COVID-19, fans are understandably asking for more. Makar is a Norris Trophy finalist. Heiskanen led his team to the Stanley Cup Final last season. Pettersson is a certified star. Hischier, meanwhile, is considered a good second-line center behind Jack Hughes.

Honestly, that’s okay. To say things could be worse is obvious. The Devils were choosing between Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick. Patrick is barely hanging onto a top-20 player in this draft, and he has been in the NHL for the past four seasons. He’s producing at the same level as Drake Batherson who was taken 121st.

Hischier also brings intangibles that a young team like the Devils need. There was a reason he was named captain of this franchise at the ripe age of 21. The Devils are used to having veteran captains like Scott Stevens, Bryce Salvador, and Andy Greene. Instead, they put the future in the hands of the future.

Beyond that, the great run the Devils went on to break their playoff-less streak in 2017-18 doesn’t happen if the team takes Makar or Pettersson. They both needed another year of development before they were ready for the NHL. Makar wasn’t a regular in the NHL until the 2019-20 season. Hischier was really good in the NHL right away, taking the top-line center job and helping Taylor Hall win his one and only Hart Trophy.

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Looking back, sure it’d be nice to have Makar or Heiskanen right now since the Devils never filled their number-one defenseman need they had back in 2017-18. Still, Hischier is going to grow into a really good player. Judging him based on his worst year which was mostly driven by fluke injuries isn’t fair. Give him a chance to prove himself, and maybe the Colorado Avalanche or Dallas Stars will eventually be jealous of us.