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CHICAGO – Nico Hischier didn’t know he was going to be the first player selected in the 2017 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils. The team didn’t inform him until they were on the stage, announcing his name, which made Friday in Chicago an exhilarating and harrowing day for the Swiss centerman.
“This morning, I was fine. Then as soon as I stepped here in the ice rink my pulse went up and stayed there,” he said. “It was a lot of emotions, from one second to the other.”
Hischier’s heart was pumping so hard as he made his way to the stage that he actually grabbed his chest. His mother was crying. His adrenaline was pumping. He could barely speak.
“I’m really speechless. I find no words. I love to hockey,” he said on NBCSN.
Maybe he should have seen this coming. There’s this old photo card, you see, of Nico Hischier as a 10-year-old hockey player in Naters, Switzerland. His hair was blonder then.
And he was wearing a red New Jersey Devils sweater, like the one he slipped on after they selected him first overall.
“I was really young. There’s a tournament in Switzerland, where you wear an NHL team. It was always random. That year, I wore the New Jersey Devils,” he said.
History isn’t lost on Nico Hischier. A star with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, where he had 86 points in 57 games last season, he’s the first Swiss-born player to go first overall and, in the process, the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history.
“It means a lot. There a lot of guys in Switzerland supporting me in this way,” he said.
There was a time when he supported a Swiss player with the Devils: Damien Brunner, a winger he knew that played two seasons in New Jersey. Hischier joins a recent acquisition, defenseman Mirco Mueller, as the lone Swiss players on the team. (Hischier said Mueller, whose acquisition from the Sharks telegraphed this pick a bit, was friends with his older brother. Small world.)
“It’s great to join such an amazing team, with so much history. I’m really happy to be part of this organization,” he said.
Now comes the hard part: Refining his game, bulking up a bit, and becoming the kind of player that’s ready to make an NHL impact.
“I’m going to do everything I can,” he said.
Of course he will.
He loves to hockey.
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