Boston Herald - - SUNDAY NHL NOTEBOOK -

The NHL lost a very spe­cial player when Detroit’s Pavel Dat­syuk opted to re­turn home and play in the KHL last sea­son, but it ap­pears a wor­thy re­place­ment has al­ready ar­rived.

Watch­ing New Jersey No. 1 over­all pick Nico His­chier play in the prospects tour­na­ment in Buf­falo last week, it was like see­ing a young Dat­syuk.

Start with the fact the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder wears No. 13 — an homage to Dat­syuk, his fa­vorite player grow­ing up. His­chier looks like him on the ice, and he plays like him: Able to pro­tect and main­tain con­trol of the puck and keep it away from de­fend­ers as he stick­han­dles through heavy traf­fic. The 18-year-old is cre­ative in find­ing pass­ing tar­gets, can re­ally shoot, and, like Dat­syuk, is adept and ded­i­cated de­fen­sively.

“Real smart, slip­pery and he’s got good speed,” said Devils as­sis­tant GM Tom Fitzger­ald. “He’s strong on pucks in the of­fen­sive zone, and I think one of his big­gest as­sets is that he sees the ice very well.

“Peo­ple say he reminds them of Dat­syuk. I hear that a lot. I think it would be hard for any kid to be com­pared to a leg­end like that.

“I know he’s go­ing to put a lot of pres­sure on him­self. It’s our job to pro­tect him and make sure he’s in an en­vi­ron­ment where he can be suc­cess­ful — in­stead of prop­ping him up to some enor­mous thing early in his ca­reer.

“He loves hockey. He’s pas­sion­ate about the game. But he’s not that gen­er­a­tional pick like Aus­ton Matthews or Con­nor McDavid. We have a good group of older guys who can in­su­late him: Just let him come in, fit in and then grow from there.”

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