The ninth CHL player in the past 10 years to be chosen first overall in the NHL Draft, Swiss centreman Nico Hischier is the latest Halifax Mooseheads star to stand in the spotlight at the annual summer event.
Entering the Chicago-based weekend neck-and-neck with Brandon Wheat Kings forward Nolan Patrick in the event’s first overall sweepstakes, Hischier had no idea if he’d hear his name called to open the proceedings when the New Jersey Devils took the stage.
“I knew nothing, it was one second to the other,” reflected the excited 18-year-old after Devils general manager Ray Shero made the selection before a big crowd at the United Center. “I hugged my mom first and I think she was crying a little bit. It was a lot of emotion and there are no words to describe the feeling.”
A fleet-footed centreman who turned heads representing Switzerland at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Montreal and Toronto with seven points (3-4–7) in five games, Hischier collected 86 points (38-48–86) in 57 games during his first QMJHL season with Halifax. He’s the latest in an impressive list of recent Mooseheads to be chosen inside the top 10 at the NHL Draft.
Mastercard Memorial Cup champions Nathan MacKinnon (1st overall, Colorado) and Jonathan Drouin (3rd overall, Tampa Bay) began the trend in 2013 as MacKinnon burst out of the gate to win the Calder Trophy that season while Drouin returned for a 108-point campaign in Halifax. Dashing Dane Nikolaj Ehlers (9th overall, Winnipeg) followed a year later before Hischier’s fellow countryman Timo Meier (9th overall, San Jose) was a first round pick in 2015.
“I had a good season in Halifax and after the World Juniors I knew I was playing really well so I tried to keep it up and work hard to the end,” Hischier reflected.
“Halifax is a first class organization. I had awesome billets and the team there has done a lot for me.”
The first Devils first round selection out of the QMJHL since 1997, Hischier’s 2016-17 campaign saw him claim both CHL and QMJHL Rookie of the Year honours while also claiming the Michel Bergeron Trophy as the QMJHL’s top offensive rookie as well as the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s top NHL Draft prospect. He now join a Devils organization that includes other up-and-coming CHL products and graduates in forwards Pavel Zacha (Sarnia Sting), Michael McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads), John Quenneville (Brandon Wheat Kings), Blake Speers (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (Barrie Colts).
Hischier was one of two QMJHL players chosen in the first round as Charlottetown Islanders blueliner Pierre-Olivier Joseph was selected 23rd overall by the Arizona Coyotes. A trio of QMJHLers were chosen in the second round as Victoriaville forward Maxime Comtois (50th overall, Anaheim), Rouyn-Noranda rearguard Zachary Lauzon (51st overall, Pittsburgh) and Acadie-Bathurst forward Antoine Morand (60th overall, Anaheim) helped round out the 14 QMJHL players chosen in Chicago.
QMJHL Players Selected in the 2017 NHL Draft:
(Click on a player to watch post-draft interview)
First Round (2 QMJHL Players):
1. Nico Hischier (Halifax Mooseheads) – New Jersey Devils
23. Pierre-Olivier Joseph (Charlottetown Islanders) – Arizona Coyotes
Second Round (3 QMJHL Players):
50. Maxime Comtois (Victoriaville Tigres) – Anaheim Ducks
51. Zachary Lauzon (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) – Pittsburgh Penguins
60. Antoine Morand (Acadie-Bathurst Titan) – Anaheim Ducks
Fourth Round (1 QMJHL Player):
121. Drake Batherson (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) – Ottawa Senators
Fifth Round (2 QMJHL Players):
130. David Noel (Val-d’Or Foreurs) – St. Louis Blues
136. Leon Gawanke (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) – Winnipeg Jets
Sixth Round (4 QMJHL Players):
165. Arnaud Durandeau (Halifax Mooseheads) – New York Islanders
171. D’Artagnan Joly (Baie-Comeau Drakkar) – Calgary Flames
173. Cedric Pare (Saint John Sea Dogs) – Boston Bruins
176. Pavel Koltygin (Drummondville Voltigeurs) – Nashville Predators
Seventh Round (2 QMJHL Players):
191. Jocktan Chainey (Halifax Mooseheads) – New Jersey Devils
212. Ivan Chekhovich (Baie-Comeau Drakkar) – San Jose Sharks
For full results from the 2017 NHL Draft visit www.nhl.com.