The New Jersey Devils are not having the kind of year the team thought it might at the beginning of the year. Through the first half of the season, the Devils had to fire their head coach and general manager. Not to mention the Devils traded away one of their best players in Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes. Throughout it all, one player has stepped in to take control of the team and make them his own. That player is Nico Hischier. In this article, we will dive into how Nico Hischier is supplanting himself as the new leader of the Devils.
Nico Hischier is the New Leader of the Devils
From the Start
Hischier has always been a vital part of the Devils organization since the day he was drafted first overall in 2017. Immediately he stepped into the number one centre’s role with ease. There was really no hesitation when it came to Hischier and his development. He was going to play in the NHL from the start. There was no going back to Switzerland for him. Since coming into the league, he was flanked on his wings first by Jesper Bratt, then Kyle Palmieri and Hall. Hischier played an important role in Hall’s Hart Trophy season of 2017-18. Hall had nothing but high praise for the rookie. Hall stated numerous times without Hischier, he does not think he would have won the MVP award that season. That year the Devils went back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
While it took some time for Hischier to develop physically, he is on the correct trajectory. In 194 career NHL games, Hischier has 128 points (49 goals and 79 assists). As the Devils began the 2019-20 season, you saw Hischier was bigger and stronger. You could even notice Hischier was a little faster on the ice. Hischier is on pace to set new career highs in just his third season. He was rewarded with a new seven-year contract that carries a $7.25 million salary-cap hit. This deal will be very team-friendly in the coming years. Some people thought it was the wrong time to sign a long-term deal, but the timing could not have been any better.
Post Hall Trade
With Hall no longer a part of the team, Hischier has been a more focal point of the team. In 16 games since the trade, Hischier has registered 13 points (seven goals and six assists). Since the beginning of the season, no forward averages more 5-on-5 ice time per game. Hischier is also being featured on the top power-play unit for the first time in his career. Not to mention he is one of the first forwards on the ice when the Devils are on the penalty kill. His hard work on and off the ice is finally being noticed around the league. With Palmieri on injured reserve, Hischier was named as his replacement for the All-Star Game in St. Louis. Hischier was on the fan ballot as part of the NHL’s Last Man In Campaign.
Being on a stage like the All-Star Game will give more recognition to a player that is continuing his development the right way. Hischier is a great defensive forward, that has an upside offensively. If he continues on this path, there is a chance a Selke Trophy could be in his future.
Even though the Devils remain out of the playoff picture, the Devils have been able to muster up some wins. During those wins, Hischier is stepping up his game to will the Devils to victory. His leadership qualities are second to none. Once Andy Greene moves on via trade or he decides to step away, Hischier is the odds on favourite to get the captaincy. He carries himself the right way and is never afraid to step in front of the microphone.
The Devils have a nice nucleus they are building. Along with Hischier, the Devils have Jack Hughes, Jesper Boqvist, Nikita Gusev, Bratt, and Will Butcher on the roster. Not to mention a guy like Blake Coleman, who has earned himself a new contract with the team next year. New Jersey is in a good spot. Hischier is a name every fan associates with the Devils. That will only get bigger once he is named captain.
Regardless of who you think the face of the franchise is at the moment, the Devils have become Nico Hischier’s team now!