The New Jersey Devils have officially won the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery.
After finishing the 2017 season with an overall record of 28-40-14, the New Jersey Devils had the 4th best odds (8.5%) to win the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. After a shocking lottery, the New Jersey Devils will pick 1st overall for the first time in franchise history (although they picked 1st overall in 1979 when they were the Colorado Rockies). Although this year’s draft is generally weaker compared to the 2015 and 2016 Drafts, there still remains the question of who the Devils will select with the first overall pick.
Throughout the entire 2016-17 season, scouting reports have continued to put two players as the projected two picks of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier. However, Patrick missed a large majority of the 2017 season recovering from a sports hernia allowing Nico Hischier to make his case for being selected first overall. With a little less than two months until the draft, the Devils have to answer some pretty big questions.
Although the choice might look similar, Patrick and Hischier are different types of players and both have made their cases for being selected first overall.
Patrick, 18, has spent his entire junior career playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. He tallied career highs last season scoring 41 goals and 102 points in 72 games before being injured in the WHL playoffs (tallying 30 points in 21 games) which limited him to just 33 games this season. Despite missing significant time this season, Patrick still recorded solid numbers accumulating 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games. At 6’3″ and 198lbs he has NHL ready size and has compared his game to that of Anze Kopitar. Patrick may still be touted as the projected first overall pick, but one thing that should concern the Devils is his health. A sports hernia is no minor injury and it did keep Patrick out for a significant amount of time. However, he still proved to bounce back well and has spoken out saying that he is 100% ready to go and healthy.
“People can say what they want about me. Ninety-nine percent of the people who are talking don’t even know what happened with my [hernia] injury and how it went down,” Patrick says. “People can talk and have a right to their opinion, but for me, it is what it is. Before [last season], I think I played 110 games or something like that, didn’t miss a game. I’m 100 percent healthy now.”
Patrick has one more year of eligibility in the CHL, but he hopes to being playing in the NHL regardless of who drafts him in June.
“I think I’m ready, but of course I have to go out and prove it on the ice,” says Patrick, who turns 19 in September. “To be drafted into the NHL is just a big honor in itself. Wherever I go, whoever picks me, I’ll be excited.”
The second option the Devils have to select first overall is Nico Hischier.
Hischier, 18, made the jump over to the QMJHL after spending the 2015-16 season playing for Bern SC in the Swiss-A league. In his first year in Canadian juniors playing for the Halifax Mooseheads, Hischier has turned heads and made a very strong case for being selected ahead of Patrick. In 2017 Hischier tallied 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games for the Mooseheads finishing second on the team in scoring. Not only did he finish second on the Mooseheads, but he finished 10th overall in QMJHL scoring and the highest scorer as a rookie. Hischier has also seen some international success totaling 7 goals and 15 points in 11 games for Switzerland at the U20 World Junior Championships.
Scouting reports have described Hischier as a player with exceptional hockey sense and ability along with being willingly to go to the dirty areas for loose pucks and block shots. He comes in slightly smaller than Patrick at 6’1 and 174lbs, but he still has NHL frame. The plus side to Hischier is that he has already experienced playing against men in Switzerland and since he is on loan to Halifax from Switzerland, he is AHL eligible next season, instead of having to play an entire season in major junior should he not immediately make the NHL jump.
The choice is ultimately up to New Jersey’s front office and general manager Ray Shero, but regardless of who the Devils select they will be getting a potential first line center who could lead the New Jersey back to the playoffs.