Nico Hischier is doing it all

Nico Hischier is doing it all

With the Devils climbing to the top of the standings, there have been plenty of excellent performances all round. The team has won six in a row and nine out of ten, racking up wins in just about every way imaginable. They’ve gotten big performances from their blue line and much of their forward group, with even the fourth line contributing significantly. Jesper Bratt has been making headlines around the league for his blistering start, and John Marino has proven to be a source of great grief for Penguins fans for years to come. One big performer from the early part of this season that I won’t say has been overlooked, but deserves a bit of its own spotlight, is Nico Hischier.

Hischier has taken a bit of a back seat in terms of hype over the past two years as Jack Hughes has become an all-world playmaker and offensive wizard for the Devils. Even Jesper Bratt, with his breakout season last season, contract drama this offseason, franchise record-setting start this season, and new Twitter account dedicated to his work, has slightly overshadowed by the captain of the Devils. Hischier has been developing into the exact type of player the Devils need him to be over the past few seasons, though: a dominant two-way center who can score, facilitate and win tough matchups with a variety of linemates.

It’s not that Hischier hasn’t been good or even very good at times since coming into the league, it’s more that being a first overall pick comes with expectations that can be difficult for a player to live up to for some people . Add to that the pressure of being a young captain in the NHL and people inevitably want you to put in a lot of big performances to justify the profile. Last season and now especially to start this season, Hischier has been dedicated to quieting critics with the kind of two-way ability that can propel a team to success in the NHL.

Hischier plays substantial minutes in all three phases for the Devils and largely plays in all three, generating strong impacts in both directions at 5-on-5 to go with good production. Looking at his RAPM stats below from Evolving Hockey, you can see how he is consistently impacting the game in a positive way all over the ice. He also does so while usually seeing the toughest matchups, especially at home where the Devils can make the last change. In Hockey in evolution GAR numbers, Hischier ranks as one of the top 50 players in the league so far this season. On top of all that, he’s also winning 60% of his face-offs this season (per Hockey referencemaking him the ideal player to put at a critical point during the game.

Positive impacts in all offensive and defensive categories in Evolving-Hockey RAPM

Hischier Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) for 2022-23
from Evolving-Hockey.com

Offensively, Hischier has always been able to make the kind of surprising plays that can appear on a highlight reel, but the frequency of those plays has increased significantly of late. Hischier is showing a growing ability to beat opponents one-on-one and wreak havoc on opposing defenses, which is a huge plus for a player who also plays responsibly in a different way than Hischier.

Hischier has also had his teammates singing his praises as captain this season as he has really begun to grow into the role. It’s hard to be pushed into a critical leadership role as a young player like Hischier returned for the 2020-21 season. It was especially tricky because he was injured for such a large percentage of that first season as captain. The players back then seemed to have a lot of respect for the type of player Hischier was and the way he went about his business. Hischier isn’t boisterous, but he’s dedicated and a hard worker by all accounts, and it looks like he’s really started to embrace his role as this team’s chief motivator and role model. Combined with his on-ice output (and a very reasonable contract), Hischier is a player that any team in the league would highly desire.

Put the whole picture together and Hischier looks like exactly the type of player you’d expect to pick at the top of a draft. Combined with many of the Devils’ talented young players, he looks like a pillar that the Devils can build on and rely on to propel the team forward. His continued progression is just another big part of what has gone well for the Devils in their hot start this season and hopefully he will continue to keep the team in the middle of the playoff hunt as the season continues.

#Nico #Hischier

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