Nico Hischier must develop into the best skater on the New Jersey Devils if he hopes to achieve the ultimate goal.
The New Jersey Devils’ No. 1 overall selection from 2017, Nico Hischier didn’t disappoint Jersey’s team last season. However, one commendable rookie season is just one minor accomplishment and the expectations are higher than ever for Hischier in 2019.
For starters, ESNY reflects back on a list of every No. 1 overall selection since 2004.
2004 Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin
2005 Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby
2006 St. Louis Blues Erik Johnson
2007 Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane
2008 Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos
2009 New York Islanders John Tavares
2010 Edmonton Oilers Taylor Hall
2011 Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2012 Edmonton Oilers Nail Yakupov
2013 Colorado Avalanche Nathan MacKinnon
2014 Florida Panthers Aaron Ekblad
2015 Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid
2016 Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
2017 New Jersey Devils Nico Hischier
2018 Buffalo Sabres Rasmus Dahlin
A majority of the names listed above should sound familiar to NHL fans alike, especially the 2010 draft pick who won the 2018 Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. While only three out of the 15 picks have won a Stanley Cup championship (Ovechkin, Crosby & Kane), that’s no excuse for Hischier and the Devils not to hoist Lord Stanley sooner rather than later.
Both Crosby and Kane won Cups less than five seasons into their NHL career, and are the only two that have won numerous titles.
Nico Hischier (19 years and 100 days) is the youngest player in @NJDevils / Rockies / Scouts franchise history to score a #StanleyCup Playoffs goal. #NHLStats #NJDvsTBL pic.twitter.com/w4wLQELgVj
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 14, 2018
Let’s dive into some of the former first-overall selections stat lines from their respective rookie and sophomore campaigns.
Hischier played in all 82 games while netting 20 goals and tallying 32 assists for 52 points in 2018.
Ovechkin (52G-54A – 106PTS), Crosby (39G-63A –102PTS) and Kane (21G-51A – 72PTS) all had more productive seasons than Hischier. Though that trio failed to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs during their rookie campaigns.
The more recent first-overall selections in Connor McDavid (1.07) and Auston Matthews (0.84) both finished their rookie season with a higher points-per-game rating than the Switzerland native (0.63).
Skaters such as Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Taylor Hall all had similar rookie campaigns to Hischier, as neither skater recorded more than 60 points.
Patrick Maroon finds Nico Hischier in front for an #NJDevils goal. pic.twitter.com/IgOkdHbceY
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 7, 2018
Entering 2019, it appears that Hischier is on track to excel as one of the league’s best players and his defensive play could boost his status one day higher than skaters such as Stamkos, Tavares and Kane. And believe it or not, but Ovechkin and Matthews were the only skaters in addition to Hischier that finished their rookie campaigns with a positive plus/minus rating. Though, No. 13 finished with the highest (plus-10).
Year two for all of the veteran skaters mentioned above were telling.
Stamkos and Tavares saw dramatic increases in their respective point-production, and Crosby had a career-best season with 120 points.
Matthews and McDavid can be tough to compare this early in the game, especially since both suffered injuries so early in their careers, but it’s obvious both are set to become perennial top point-producers.
What’s a realistic expectation for Hischier in year two? Considering that the Devils are going to rely on him more and in a number of different situations, 27-30 goals isn’t a farfetched prediction and neither is 40 assists for a 70 point campaign in 2019.
Yes, the goals and beautiful assists are nice, but the main goal is to have Hischier become a clutch player and one that’s head and shoulders above other players around the league.
The Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, but there are other expectations for the youngster to collect some individual hardware too; perhaps a Hart Memorial Trophy is on the horizon.
Only time will tell, but eventually, Hischier is going to have to be the Devils’ best player in order for New Jersey to be crowned as champions, again.