As we approach the end of the 2016-17 NHL season, the upcoming draft serves as a light at the end of the tunnel for a collection of under-performing teams. Even with this year’s draft not delivering a generational player like a Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, it is certain to produce a number of future stars. Many early reports have Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick going first overall, though I believe that as time goes on, Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads will be awarded this honor.
Hischier is a QMJHL rookie at age 18 after playing most of his junior career in the Swiss Elite Junior-A league. He ranks seventh in the league in points with 77(37-40-77), however in just 46 games ranks second in points per game with 1.67, trailing only Filip Chlapik. He also boasts a 19.47% shooting percentage. His style of play is one of finesse and speed. He has even been called “the Swiss McDavid” and the comparisons show in the way of a lethal first step and the ability to maintain puck possession in tight spaces. These attributes force opposing defenses to double up on him in attempt to limit his time and space, leaving them constantly vulnerable in allowing Hischier to create odd-man opportunities for his line mates. As the NHL has developed into a faster game, Hischier’s style will translate directly and he will slot into a top 6 role this upcoming fall.
Nolan Patrick is a phenomenal hockey player, but what I think is important to realize is that he also plays on a championship caliber team. (Seeing as Patrick has missed a large portion of this season, I will use last year’s numbers as compatibles.) Patrick had his best season working alongside an experienced group of hockey players such as Ivan Provorov, John Quenneville, and Macoy Erkamps. The benefit of this is that these players are skilled at making room for themselves and taking advantage of high percentage opportunities. Patrick was able to feed off of the high caliber potential of the rest of the team which I think is what helped juice his stats. On the flip side, Hischier is leading the youngest team in the CHL, and far less skilled while still keeping pace with Patrick in terms of points per game. He has also currently contributed to 38.1% of his team’s offense whereas Patrick at his best only contributed to 32.2%. I think that teams will start to take into consideration each players overall value to their team and realize that they need to draft with the intention of picking more impactful players rather than situational players. Hischier is the more impactful and adaptable player.
The Colorado Avalanche are the clear favourite in winning the draft lottery and having the luxury of trying to decide who to draft. It is starting to seem like the team will also start next season without Matt Duchene as they are hoping to work out a trade for defensive help and prospects. I think that Hischier should be the favourite to replace him as the second line center because he plays a similar style game. It would be valuable to the players who are used to working with a player of this nature and would go a long way in aiding the young center’s professional development. Even if Colorado were to come to the decision that Nolan Patrick is slightly a better player, I think it would be wiser to draft the player who is likely to experience a more effective development. In this case, Nico Hischier.
From a dynasty fantasy league perspective, if you are already in a position to draft one of these two studs then you will surely benefit from doing so. I would however, discourage selling out to acquire them. As was stated earlier, Hischier and Patrick will probably not turn out to be generational players. I would be exploring potential trades to owners who are over valuing the top end of the 2017 draft class.