NEWARK, NJ — The New Jersey Devils franchise has never had the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft, so of course Nico Hischier deserved to be treated like royalty Monday.
And royal treatment he received, as Hischier, the Devils’ and NHL’s first pick in this year's draft, was welcomed by the city of Newark and introduced to the media in a press conference at Prudential Center.
A lively day that began at Newark City Hall and concluded with the busy media gathering, while getting a sandwich named after him in between, Hischier was front and center in the New York-New Jersey sports world Monday.
“It’s just impressive. I mean, it’s my first time here in New Jersey, here in New York and to see all those things, it’s just impressive,” said Hischier. “I’m really happy to be here with my family and to join this amazing team.”
For the Halifax, Switzerland, native, visiting New Jersey for the first time came with plenty of perks during the eventful day.
“It is different [than Switzerland], it’s huge,” Hischier said. “I mean I got my own sandwich now, so it’s pretty fun here and they welcome me really nice. I like it so far.”
The sandwich Nico got was created and named in his honor at famous Hobby’s Delicatessen in Newark, where he stopped by and ate his new namesake before heading to Prudential Center. As cameras rolled and fans came flocking, Hischier couldn’t wipe the smile from his face — and with everything that’s happened to him this past week, why would he?
“It’s different [from Switzerland] for sure, but I really like it and enjoy it,” stated Hischier.
On the hockey side of things, the team Nico will be joining has been constructed by Devils General Manager Ray Shero, who joined the 18-year-old on the podium at “The Rock” Monday. Ultimately, it was Shero’s decision to draft Hischier on June 23 — and when holding the No. 1 draft pick in the entire league, that’s no easy task.
“It was important to us to draft the player that we thought for our organization had the skill set that we might need most. We’re happy with Nico,” the third-year GM said. “Obviously it’s certainly a heck of a piece that certainly a few months ago, after the season, we thought we had a chance to get.”
The Devils’ selection of Hischier came as a surprise to some. Entering the NHL Entry Draft Friday, Hischier and fellow center Nolan Patrick were seen as the likely first two picks. Which one of the two was selected first was a complete toss up.
“I knew that I could [get drafted No. 1] but at the end it was surprising for me — I didn’t know anything — but I’m pretty happy right now,” said Hischier. “I’m really, really happy and excited to join such a great team.”
Devils fans can expect of Hischier to see a hard-working center who plays at a fast pace for years to come. This summer will be important for the top draft picl, who will work hard to become an immediate part of this season’s Devils squad.
“I really am a two-way center. So I really need my defense to be first and create some offense,” said Hischier. “I really just want to win every game, so I never give up.”