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NHL Entry Draft: Who Will be Taken 1st Overall?

Most of the hype in hockey right now surrounds the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the upcoming expansion draft so it’s easy to forget about another important date on the NHL calendar – the 2017 entry draft.

Teams will have just two short days to prepare for the incoming class of NHL talent after their current rosters are sifted through by George McPhee and company but for teams who are picking early, it’s likely they already know who they want to select and in some cases, that was reflected in the list of players announced that will be shielded from the grasp of the Golden Knights.

Earning the first overall pick by way of a very fortunate lottery, the New Jersey Devils will have their pick of the litter on Friday and it looks like they’ll choose between Swiss center Nico Hischier and Canadian pivot Nolan Patrick if they decide to hang on to the pick.

The Devils may have been a year late on landing a superstar up the middle, where they’re in desperate need, but both of these guys have serious potential and general manager Ray Shero would be foolish not to draft one of them as his first-line centerman of the future. Sports Interaction has a prop for who will go first between the two and the odds imply they feel Patrick is the right choice.

As someone who’s followed Nico Hischier’s career closely, however, I’m not so convinced. Ranked No. 2 by most experts, the Swiss native played 57 games for the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL this past season and he racked up 86 points for a team that barely got into the playoffs.

Where the 18-year-old really shone, though, was at the last world junior championship tournament where he demonstrated his game-breaking talent to the hockey planet. He helped Switzerland to the quarterfinal round where they nearly knocked off the eventual champs in a 3-2 loss to the U.S.A., improving over a campaign in which the Swiss won exactly zero games and were nearly relegated from the tournament.

I’m not saying that one of Hischier or Patrick gets the nod from me but I am saying that this is not as easy a decision for Devils management as it might appear on its surface. There’s no question how well Patrick and his two-way play would’ve fit in the old Lou Lamoriello system and he would’ve been the clear choice if Toronto’s boss was still in charge in Jersey. There is some feeling, though, that New Jersey’s need for that kind of player was filled by the selection of Pavel Zacha and that the Devils’ 28th-ranked offense could use the excitement and creativity that Hischier brings to the table.

Given that analysis, Hischier’s +150 line to be the first overall selection seems like good value and I think it’s one that has to be considered heading into this week’s festivities.

NHL Entry Draft: Who will be selected 1st overall
  • Nolan Patrick -215
  • Nico Hischier +150
Odds as of June 19 at Sports Interaction