Hockey aficionados and hockey fanatics will debate whether the Devils got it right drafting Nico Hischier in the 2017 draft. That’s the way it goes when a team does not have an obvious choice to draft the No. 1 pick like the Maple Leafs last year when they drafted Auston Matthews.
I am in no position to question Devils general manager Ray Shero. I never saw Hischier or Nolan Patrick play to make judgement on either of them. I will give Shero the benefit of the doubt since he knows more about hockey than I ever will know.
Make no mistake. Shero’s tenure will be judged on how great Hischier does for the Devils. He has to get it right in drafting him after doing so much research on the new draft pick or Patrick, who was the Flyers’ No. 2 pick. He does not get a second chance to draft another No. 1 pick. It’s either now or never.
One has to figure the Devils boss made the selection based on talent. It would be asinine to draft a No. 1 pick to fill a need. Hischier scored 38 goals and tallied 86 points in 57 games as a member of Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Halifax Mooseheads last year, so the Devils obviously drafted him based on his ability to score and make others better.
This was the worst year to have the No. 1 pick for the Devils. There’s no ready-to-be-made star that can make an impact now. Odds are it could take two or three years before Hischier makes an impact. Maybe longer, and that would not be a good scenario for the Devils if that happens and Patrick blossoms into a star for the Flyers right away.
All we can do is wait and see what happens. If Hischier does not make the team on opening night, it does not mean he is going to be a bust. The Devils should put him on the roster if he is qualified and mature enough to handle the grind and speed of the NHL. They shouldn’t put him there to validate their pick or else they will put him in a position to fail. The priority should be to develop him into a star.
Here’s what to like about Hischier: He is mature for his age when it comes to handling expectations and conducting himself in the league. He is like a NBA point guard when it comes to creating his shot and making others better. He is a guy that knows how to win faceoffs. Here’s what not to like: He may not have the size to be physical in the league.
The bottom line is if he scores and gives the Devils big moments, he will be a success. It would be nice to have a NHL star actually step up in a big game or in the playoffs for a local hockey team. Islanders star John Tavares has showed he does not have the goods to get it done, and the Rangers don’t have anyone that can play well in the playoffs.
We have seen enough of what Tavares and the Rangers’ young players can do. With Hischier, there’s anticipation of what he can do, which is often the case when young stars get NHL experience.
What worries me is that Patrick could be more of a complete player than Hischier. Plus, Patrick was highly regarded than Hischier, whose stock improved in the last few weeks that clearly had the Devils change their mind.
Could it be the Devils picked a guy because he was the flavor of the month as in he become their lust for a good playoff showing? If that was the case, that’s not a right way to pick a player. Again, Shero deserves the benefit of the doubt. He has been around hockey for a long time to know what makes a player tick and productive.
It could have been tempting for Shero to trade the pick, but anytime a NHL team gets the No. 1 pick, the general manager has to have the conviction of getting his guy.
No one knows what Shero can do as a Devils general manager. This is going to be his third year running the team. He needs several more drafts to determine what he is as a general manager.
One thing for sure. He better get this pick right or he won’t be running the Devils that much longer.
Shero’s legacy is on the line now. That’s the way it goes when a team has the No. 1 pick that may not be a sure thing. Right now, he will get the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he is doing in making this choice.
If Patrick flourishes with the Flyers and Hischier struggles to grow in the league, Shero will be reminded of it constantly.