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Nico Hischier: Valais talent hot on the heels of Wayne Gretzky

He was the first overall draft pick from Switzerland in the history of the North American National Hockey League (NHL). He’s been showing he has what it takes in the best league in the world. He wears number 13, and he’s only 19 years old. This is the story of how a young lad from Naters enchanted the international ice hockey scene.

On the night of Saturday 24 June 2017, something historic happened in Chicago. It was the first time in ice hockey that Swiss up-and-coming talent was selected number one in the NHL draft pick. When the New Jersey Devils made him their first round pick, they were changing his life forever. It was certainly an evening this gifted Swiss youngster isn’t likely to forget.

A dream came true for Hischier when his name lit up first on the huge scoreboard

Hard graft

You can’t make something out of nothing. This saying couldn’t be more apt for the yound Hischier. It’s his unflinching work ethic that brings so much value to the table (or the rink) in the hockey world. He overcomes any obstacles with his brains and unbridled competitive spirit. And any difficulties he hits out of the way with a healthy dose of self-confidence and strategy. There’s no turning back no for Hischier.

In fact, he relishes a challenge; they goad him on. But it couldn’t be any other way really if he wants to succeed in North America. His tenacity and stubbornness got him where he is today. That and his family.

Hischier’s parents were always on hand to take him to sports academy, training and anywhere else he needed to go. He always sticks at things for as long as he can. For Hischier, life is like a game – and one that he seems to know how to play well.

Taking his first steps on the ice. At that time no one could have predicted where it would take him

From mountain village to life in the big city

Hischier launched his steep career path with a spot as a junior at EHC Visp. It was only when he was 15 that he switched to the Elite A Juniors at SC Bern. It soon became clear that no one was a patch on him – none of his teammates or opponents could get the better of the fast, nimble and the technically very able boy from the Valais. A year later he had already made his debut in the highest Swiss league and was rubbing shoulders with the pros at SC Bern.

He even scored his first goal while sporting the shirt with the club’s bear logo emblazoned across his chest. After a short transfer period, back at national league B EHC Visp, the Halifax Mooseheads selected him sixth overall at the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft 2016. This move was ultimately Hischier’s one-way ticket into the world of those he looked up to.

«It’s because of players like Hischier that we love this sport.»
Wayne Gretzky

The NHL and the New Jersey Devils’ shirt couldn’t look better on him.

The scale: good, better, Hischier

Even as early as his first season with the Halifax Mooseheads, he was showing everyone what he was capable of. He met all the rookie statistics; he scored the most goals (38); he earned the most assists (48) and scored the most points (86).

As a result, he was awarded the Michel Bergeron trophy and the RDS Cup for the best rookie. A jury also selected him for the all-rookie team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (LHJMQ). Not only that, Hischier won the Michael Bossy trophy – and the winner is usually predicted to forge a great career in the NHL. As if that wasn’t enough, the Canadian Hockey League went on to name him CHL Rookie of the Year.

Nico Hischier – he’s lightening-fast, nimble and known for his unique stick-handling

A special evening for Nico

The cat was out of the bag. It was no longer a secret that Hischier was predicted to become the top selection in the draft history of Swiss ice hockey. Nino «El Niño» Niederreiter had been the fifth overall pick in 2010 and had set the bar very high. Nevertheless, the NHL Central Scouting Services – the experts within the field of experts – predicted baby-faced Hischier to be the second best candidate of all North American players.

But that night just goes to show that even experts can make mistakes. Because the New Jersey Devils, who got the first pick, chose Hischier over Nolan Patrick. And yet, before the draft, the odds were on the Canadian being first pick.

«It was amazing when I heard my name. I’m speechless. The first thing I did was give my mum a hug and she started crying. It’s such a special thing to be able to wear the Devils shirt. It looks great. I don’t think I’ll ever want to take it off.»
Nico Hischier

Ice, ice, baby

Now in the National Hockey League, the Valais supertalent has enraptured the world of North American ice hockey. Despite not scoring any points in his 52nd NHL game in February, he still holds an impressive 31 points. And that’s a remarkable number for a rookie in their first season.

In interviews, Hischier comes across as hardened, cool and very much like a pro. He’s frank, upfront and the definition of composure itself. Sponsored appearances don’t phase him. Neither do hours spent signing autographs for fans.

A lot of people draw comparisons with Federer. This isn’t just down to his skill but also because of his character. He’s a fighter, a hard worker and a perfectionist. At the same time, he’s a family person, a team player and proud of his country. Ultimately, Hischier lives and breathes ice hockey.

Hischier is already established and a firm favourite at the New Jersey Devils

That minor matter of the Olympics

Nico Hischier isn’t a threat to Patrick Fischer and his Swiss ice hockey squad in PyeongChang. More’s the pity for fans. But those who know the scene are pleased.

Hischier not being in the Olympics doesn’t have anything to do with skills or lack thereof. It comes down to the simple fact that NHL players aren’t allowed to compete. That means we won’t be seeing this roguish newcomer in South Korea. All in all, it’s not a bad thing. The New Jersey Devils need him in the fight for play-off places. His humility, willingness to make sacrifices and his enthusiasm certainly make him one to watch.

Will Nico Hischier become a world-famous star of the likes of legends Gretzky, Lemieux and Crosby? A better question to ask is probably when, not if.

Nico Hischier doesn’t have a plan B. It’s not like he’d need it

Get ready for the play-offs with Galaxus

New Jersey Devils Home Jersey (L)
Fanatics New Jersey Devils Home Jersey (L)
The Devils NHL jersey from Swiss number 1 draft Nico Hischier.


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When I'm not stuffing my face with sweets, you'll catch me running around in the gym hall. I’m a passionate floorball player and coach. On rainy days, I tinker with my homebuilt PCs, robots or other gadgets. Music was my first love, cooking is my second: I’m a real foodie and love trying out new recipes. I also enjoy travelling to exotic places, tackling hilly terrain on my road bike and criss-crossing the country on my cross-country skis.

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