VOORHEES, N.J. — Saturday’s game between the Flyers and Devils marks the first NHL meeting between the top two picks from the 2017 entry draft.
Nico Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick by the Devils, and Nolan Patrick, taken second by the Flyers, are the only two players from the most recent draft class to stay with their respective teams all season.
The two rookies have played against each other only once in the CHL/NHL top prospects game in Quebec last January, but they spent an extensive amount of time together at the NHL draft combine in Buffalo, New York, back in late May, and from there a friendship was formed.
“Yeah, I know him pretty good. I actually talked with him today,” Patrick said Friday, adding that he chats up Hischier on the phone about once a month. “He’s a really good guy and a good player. It was really cool to meet a lot of those guys through that experience.”
Hischier, who turned 19 last week, has a more defined offensive role with the Devils and his numbers reflect that. Currently centering the top line with Taylor Hall and Jesper Bratt, Hischier has scored eight goals along with 18 assists for 26 points in all 41 of the Devils' games. He’s also averaging 16:21 of ice time.
"Don't judge Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier," Devils general manager Fred Shero said, via NHL.com's Tom Gulitti. "They're kids, and they're going to be good players. For us, we're real happy with Nico. We were real fortunate to win the lottery. It gave us other options, and Nico's been fantastic. Having said that, I know Nolan Patrick will be a real good player."
Patrick, unlike Hischier, hasn’t been relied upon nearly as much offensively. The 19-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba, has two goals and six assists in 33 games while missing nearly a month dealing with concussion symptoms.
“I think my skating is getting better. I’m getting my skating legs back. That’s probably the main things I’ve actually noticed,” Patrick said. “I’m a little more confident in my game now, and just trying to play fast.”