TOP PICK HISCHIER HAS CLEAR INSPIRATION
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.”