Nico over Nolan.
The New Jersey Devils ended the long simmering debate on Friday night, making Nico Hischier the first No. 1 overall pick in franchise history. The so-called “Swiss McDavid” got the nod over Nolan Patrick, the Brandon Wheat Kings centre who was long projected to go first in a draft lacking the slam-dunk star of recent years.
“There are no words to describe this feeling,” said Hischier, giddy after becoming the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history.
The Vancouver Canucks were the first Canadian team to make a selection, taking centre Elias Pettersson at No. 5.
The Calgary Flames took Finnish defender Juuso Valimaki with the 16th pick and were followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs adding a defenceman of their own in Timothy Liljegren at No. 17.
The Edmonton Oilers selected forward Kailer Yamamoto with the 22nd pick, the Winnipeg Jets grabbed forward Kristian Vesalainen at No. 24, the Montreal Canadiens took forward Ryan Poehling 25th overall and the Ottawa Senators picked forward Shane Bowers at No. 28.
An electric centre with game-breaking speed, Hischier rose into top spot with an emphatic first season in the Quebec Major Junior League, piling up 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games as a rookie for the Halifax Mooseheads. The 18-year-old made maybe his biggest impression at the world junior championships this past winter with four goals and seven points in five games for Switzerland.
He should — alongside Taylor Hall — help jump-start a Devils offence that ranked third-last in the NHL last season.
Patrick didn’t drop much — ending up in the second spot after being taken by the Philadelphia Flyers. He should line up as the second centre behind captain Claude Giroux.
“I think me and Nico are completely different players,” said Patrick, coming off an injury-plagued draft year in Brandon.