Every year TSN’s Bob McKenzie projects the top NHL Entry Draft selections. His list is a bit different than a number of other scouts’ or insiders’ in that he polls a large sample of NHL general managers and clubs to find a consensus of where their heads are at in terms of whom they’d draft. Interesting about this year’s draft is that Nolan Patrick is no longer at the top.
Swiss center Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads is No. 1 on TSN’s Final 2017 NHL Draft Ranking. McKenzie’s list is published periodically and this is the first time this season Hischier has been ranked ahead of the Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick, who was No. 1 on TSN’s preseason ranking in early February, late April and September.
Patrick is still a very high-end prospect and ended up at No. 2 on TSN’s final ranking.
Of the ten scouts McKenzie spoke with, the race was close. Five scouts had Hischier as the top selection whereas four scouts stuck with Patrick. It simply goes to show that there isn’t much separating the two prospects and the New Jersey Devils who select first in this year’s upcoming draft will get a strong player who should be able to contribute right away.
What made Hischier such an interesting prospect to watch wasn’t just his 38 goals and 86 points in 57 regular season games for Halifax, but his play at the 2017 World Junior Championship tournament. Hischier scored four goals and seven points in five WJC games for Switzerland and was consistently dangerous. Scouts seem to think he’s the more speedy, dynamic player of the two and that always draws attention come draft time.
If there’s a knock on Hischier, it’s his size. Currently, he’s a smaller frame at under 6’2″ and 179 pounds. The NHL is no longer a big man’s game, but Hischier needs to fill out if he’s going to compete day in and day out with his style of play and at the NHL level.
In Patrick’s defense, part of what might have made a difference in rankings was the injuries that plagued Patrick’s most recent season. He underwent sports hernia surgery last summer and only played a handful of games before soft-tissue issues with the other side of his groin cost him a large chunk of the season. If not for injuries, he might have stayed the consensus top selection.
There have been some rumors that the Vegas Golden Knights may be working a deal with the New Jersey Devils to acquire the rights to their top pick, and if that happens, either Hischier or Patrick could be headed to Vegas and the NHL’s newest NHL franchise.
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