So now that we’ve taken a look at both Patrick and Hischier individually, it’s time we take a look at them together. It’s difficult to compare stats because Nico’s only played one season in the North American system while Nolan missed quite a few games with injuries. We can try and compare their playing styles and other concrete things.
Nolan: September 19, 1998 (18 years old)
Nico: January 4, 1999 (18 years old)
Nolan missed the cutoff for the 2016 NHL Draft by just a few days. Honestly, it freaks me out that they’re the same age as my brother, who turns 18 in August. They’re going to play in the NHL when I didn’t even know what I was doing with my life at that age?
Nolan: Winnipeg, Canada
Nico: Bern, Switzerland
Both Nolan and Nico have represented their native countries on an international level. Nolan played for Team Canada at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and tallied five points (three goals, two assists) in four games. He was slated to represent Canada at the 2017 World Junior Championship but he was not medically cleared to play at the time.
Nico, on the other hand, has much more international experience. He’s also represented Switzerland at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament the past two years, tallying eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven games. He’s also played at World Juniors each of the past three years. He has spent most of his professional career playing junior hockey in Switzerland.
Heights (NHL Scouting Combine):
Nolan: 6′ 2″ (188 cm)
Nico: 6′ 1.5″ (186.69 cm)
Weights (NHL Scouting Combine):
Nolan: 198.82 lbs (90.18 kg)
Nico: 178.55 lbs (81 kg)
Nolan and Nico are similar in height and not-so-similar in weight but both have said that they want to get stronger and put on more muscle during the summer. Nolan already has a physical presence on the ice when he skates but Nico has a smaller body. Putting on weight seems like a good idea for both of them.
This isn’t a fair comparison for multiple reasons. Nolan dealt with a few injuries this past year but didn’t miss a step when he did come back. Nico, on the other hand, played in North American for the first time so he had to adjust to a whole new system.
Nolan played just 33 games for Brandon this season, his first season as Captain. However, he did score 46 points (20 goals and 26 assists), averaging 1.40 points per game. He did have 36 penalty minutes and finished with a +9 +/- rating. The Wheat Kings finished 4th in the East but lost in the Eastern Conference quarter-final; Nolan did not play in the playoffs. Had Nolan played the entire season, we might be having a different conversation right now.
Nico did play a whole season and he was remarkable; he adjusted to a new hockey system much more quickly than people thought he would. He tallied 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists) in 57 regular season games, averaging 1.51 PPG. He also had 24 penalty minutes and finished with a +20 +/- rating. He had seven playoff points (three goals, four assists) in six games. The Mooseheads finished 5th in their division but lost in the first round.
Nolan won the CHL’s Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award; he is NHL Central Scouting’s #1 ranked prospect. He could go #1 overall if the Devils select him come draft day. Nico could also go #1; he won the CHL’s CCM Rookie of the Year Award, leading all rookies in scoring with 86 points. He was also a finalist for the Top Prospect Award alongside Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi.
Injuries: Nolan has a much-more extensive and highly publicized history of injuries than Nico does. His injury list includes a broken collarbone, a second broken collarbone, a possible groin injury, sports hernia, another groin injury, another sports hernia, and a knee/leg injury. His latest sports hernia was apparently misdiagnosed according to Patrick but no one knows his injuries better than he does. If he says he’ll be 100% healthy, he will be. His injuries shouldn’t really be a concern for the Devils or what makes or breaks their decision.
Offensive Juggernauts: Nico and Nolan are both offensive powerhouses and have the ability to make plays with their eyes closed. They’re both fast and quick on their skates, and they make the perfect passes. They know how to score goals and how to create them. Nolan is very physical on the puck. Nico also has a good defensive game and can kill penalties. They both play a two-way game as dynamic centers who can really do it all. The little things will come when they get some NHL experience.
AHL-Eligibility: I don’t know the exact rules and they’re a little hard to explain but Nico does have an upside in that he is AHL-eligible next season should he be sent down. If the Devils select Nico and he doesn’t make the team straight out of training camp, he can spend some time in Binghamton honing his game and adjusting to the higher level of play. Should the Devils select Nolan and he doesn’t make the team straight out of training camp or he does and he gets sent down later, he would have to go back to junior hockey. There really isn’t a point in him playing another season in junior hockey because there isn’t anything else for him to earn.
So all-in-all, they’re pretty similar players and they both have the potential to become top line centers in the NHL. The Devils are going to get one of them (and I hope the Flyers somehow don’t) and they’re going to go a long way to help the organization get back to where it belongs: in the playoffs.
(Also, keep an eye out for my crack comparison later on today!)