Nico Hischier was only 10 the first time he wore a Devils sweater during a youth hockey tournament in his native Switzerland. Now, eight years later, the Devils made Hischier, 18, the first overall pick in the N.H.L. entry draft Friday night as he became the first Swiss-born player to be selected No. 1.
A native of Naters, Switzerland, Hischier grabbed his chest as he struggled to come to grips with the reality of what had just happened as he walked off the stage at United Center. He immediately hugged his mother, who had started crying moments after her son was selected.
A 6-foot-2 center, he said that he had no idea the Devils would select him after it was widely believed that the club, which missed the N.H.L. playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, would select Nolan Patrick, who instead was tabbed with the No. 2 pick by the Philadelphia Flyers.
“This morning, I was fine,” Hischier stated. “Then, as soon as I stepped here in the ice rink, my pulse went up and stayed there. It was a lot of emotions, from one second to the other.”
The Swiss tallied 86 points in 57 games this past season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In the months leading up towards the draft, Hischier said he did not consent himself to consider where he could be selected. While he knew how fruitful his season had been in Halifax, Hischier — considered the No. 2-ranked player in the draft behind Patrick — arrived at United Center on Friday unsure of who would select him or where he would be chosen. At the end, Hischier was chosen five picks before the expansion Vegas Golden Knights made their first pick in franchise history.
The Golden Knights, who selected 30 players in Wednesday night’s expansion draft, made Cody Glass their first in a round in which they had three of the first 15 picks. A 6-foot-2 center, tallied 94 points in 64 games for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. The Golden Knights also selected center Nick Suzuki with the 13th overall pick before choosing defenseman Erik Brannstrom at No. 15.
On Thursday, Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee said that the Vegas front office had discussed the possibility that the first No. 1 pick in team history would naturally feel some pressure to succeed.
After Glass was chosen to fill that role, he said he was ready for it. “I think they believe in me a lot and that’s something I really appreciate,” Glass said. “I want to prove them right with their pick and it’s just unbelievable.”
Like Hischier, Glass was 10 when he made his first connection with his future hockey home. Glass traveled from his hometown, Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Las Vegas for a summer hockey tournament.
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