The New Jersey Devils witnessed many breakout performances this past season. Their captain Nico Hischier was no exception. For the first time since his rookie year, he suited up in more than 70 games (81). He had a career-high in goals (31), assists (49), and points (80) and was able to deliver in the clutch by leading the team in game-winning goals (nine). He was also third on the team in plus-minus (+33) and offensive point shares (6.4).
More than anything, Hischier showcased his defensive capabilities, leading all Devils forwards in defensive point shares (2.8) and was second among forwards in blocks (61). His hard work at both ends is one of the many reasons he’s a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy. On top of that, Hischier has demonstrated tremendous leadership throughout the season and continues to show why he’s the undisputed leader within the Devils’ dressing room.
Watch the full exit interview breakdown of one of the latest episodes of Locked On Devils below:
Pucks and Pitchforks had the chance to speak with Hischier quite frequently throughout the regular season and playoffs. During the exit interviews, we asked him what he was most proud of from himself and the rest of the team. He was very modest while answering the question.
"“We obviously wanted more,” Hischier said. “But, just being here [doing the exit interviews in mid-May] makes me proud right now. It was a great year all around, we broke some records for the New Jersey Devils’ history. I think that’s something that nobody will take away from us…this team will always be special and rememberable. I’m proud to lead these guys, try to do my thing every day, and just help out with the team on and off the ice as much as I can.”"
Before exit interviews took place, the Devils were desperately trying to keep their season alive in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils suffered an embarrassing 6-1 in game four and saw themselves trail the series 3-1. Despite the bleak circumstances, Hischier was still adamant that his team could overcome the deficit and amount a miraculous comeback.
"“It’s not done,” he said. “If you’re not believing then you gotta stay here [in New Jersey] and not come to Carolina. We gotta keep our heads high and we now know that we can’t make those mistakes again. But that’s what I’m telling these guys. We gotta believe, if not you’ve already lost.”"
When the Devils first acquired Timo Meier, the expectations for the team went up a little. However, a lot of the hockey discourse still labeled the Devils as “underdogs” despite breaking their franchise record in wins (52) and finishing with 112 points. Hischier was blunt and honest when responding to the critics.
"“I don’t care what those people say,” he said. “We focus on our locker room, we know what we have in here. Let people talk and why not? Let’s prove them wrong.”"
The New Jersey Devils proved many of their doubters and naysayers wrong. Because they were able to win their first playoff series since 2012, against the archival (New York Rangers) nonetheless, and achieved it by overcoming a 2-0 deficit. The last time they did so was in 1994 against the Boston Bruins. The future is bright for the organization and they appointed the right player to lead this franchise for years to come. Hischier is only 24 years old and is wise beyond his years. Constructing the roster around him and Jack Hughes will bring the Devils future success.