Sheldon Keefe will fall in love with New Jersey Devils captain Nico Hischier

Sheldon Keefe is going to fall in love with New Jersey Devils captain Nico Hischier quickly. He plays the exact style the former Maple Leafs coach loves.
New Jersey Devils v San Jose Sharks
New Jersey Devils v San Jose Sharks / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Sheldon Keefe, throughout his career as a head coach, has had a lot of very good players. Guys like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares are all world-class and it was a privilege for Keefe to have them for a while. 

Now, he moves on to the New Jersey Devils, which is his second NHL team. Although these great Leafs forwards were good defensively, especially Matthews, none of them have the two-way game that Nico Hischier does. 

This isn’t to say that Hischier is better or not better than any of those guys. This is to say that Hischier is a premier two-way top-line center. He was the Selke Trophy runner-up in 2022-23. 

Hischier plays at an 80-90 point pace and is one of the best defensive forwards in the league. It is truly a unique skill set. Think of him as a younger version of Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, or Sasha Barkov. 

The New Jersey Devils have something special with Nico Hischier

Whether he reaches that ceiling or not remains to be seen but it is certainly looking like it. Keefe is going to fall in love with Hischier’s game quickly. A coach loves a center that can be put on in any situation. Up a goal late, down a goal late, power play, penalty kill, or five in five, Hischier can play. He is truly a coach’s dream. 

Although Hischier has had two great years in a row, it feels like there is another level that he can get to. That could be the difference in him winning the Selke. 

Expect a big year for Nico Hischier. All of the forwards around him are going to benefit from this coaching change and Hischier should just continue dominating in all three zones. The coach and captain will be great together. It will be fun to watch.