International Ice Hockey Federation

Hischier preps for draft

Hischier preps for draft

Swiss forward might make history in June

Published 25.04.2017 14:54 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Hischier preps for draft
POPRAD, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 14: Switzerland's Nico Hischier #13 skates with the puck during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
A little piece of Nino Niederreiter’s place in hockey history might soon be claimed by 18-year-old Nico Hischier.

When the New York Islanders drafted “El Nino” 5th overall in 2010, the selection marked the highest ever for a Swiss player. In 2017, though, the talk is all about Hischier, who may well go first overall and almost certainly higher than fifth.

Hischier is playing in his third U18 this year, eligible by a mere four days. He was also one of the stars at the World Juniors in Toronto and Montreal this past January, his second U20.

Here in Slovakia, though, he is also wearing an “A,” a sign the team wants him to be a leader and not just a scout hog.

“I’m trying to be a leader here,” Hischier said, “do whatever it takes to help the team. I try to motivate my teammates in the dressing room and lead by example on the ice as well.”

As for the distractions of having many NHL scouts watching his every shift, Hischier is at peace with himself.

“Overseas there have been scouts the whole year,” he said, referring to his playing in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads. “It’s nothing new for me. You have to focus on the ice and win the game and help the team however you can.”

Of course, thinking about helping your team with one part of the brain and trying to impress scouts with the other can be a tough contradiction to deal with.

“Before the game, I told myself to just play simple hockey,” Hischier explained. “Don’t try to do too much, and have fun. I can say that when I have fun is when I play my best hockey.”

But one has to wonder about a third U18 appearance. Hischier played major junior in Canada all year, played at the World Juniors over the New Year, and now has come down a level. 

“It’s a bit difficult to come down,” he admitted, “but it’s still a pretty good level. You have to be 100 per cent ready to play your game or you won’t be effective.”

Hischier’s development over the last three years has been impressive, and he didn’t take lightly his decision to leave Switzerland for major junior.

“I made the decision because I thought it was the best way to make me a better hockey player,” he rationalized. “I always wanted to go to Canada, to see the lifestyle, to play 60 to 80 games in a season, so it was a really good experience and I don’t regret it.”

Of course, being seen by scouts is a good thing if you’re a good player, but for Hischier the two greatest challenges for a Swiss player trying to make the NHL are the ice surface and the grueling schedule.

“It’s different over there,” he admitted. “You’re on the road a lot, long bus rides. It’s a different world, but I like it. The hockey is really good, so I’m happy. The smaller ice is an adjustment at first, but in the end it’s still hockey. 

And hockey is what he’ll be playing next year, the NHL kind, if he has his way. It’s just a question of which team, and that will be worked out once he hears his name called at the Entry Draft. 

First overall? Second? Third? We’ll find out in June.


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