Hischier not caught up in ‘Nico vs. Nolan’ hype

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NASHVILLE — It’s widely expected that, when the 2017 NHL Entry Draft begins on June 23, it will either be Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick taken with the first overall selection.

It’s not unlike the “Taylor or Tyler?” debate of 2010, a discussion that lasted months before Edmonton took Taylor Hall first overall, followed by Boston selecting Tyler Seguin at No. 2.

Seven years later, the “Nico or Nolan” hype is well underway.

Just one catch. The former isn’t much for it.

“No,” Hischier said, when asked if him and Patrick have discussed who would go first overall. “He would be happy for me, I would be happy for him.”

More: ‘The media’s pumping it down’ — Patrick rejects notion of weak draft class

It’s easy to see how Patrick and Hischier have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. Despite an injury-plagued campaign for WHL Brandon, Patrick had a strong offensive campaign (46 points in 33 games), plays center, and has good size at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.

Hischier also posted solid numbers for QMJHL Halifax (86 points in 57 games), also plays down the middle and is the same height as Patrick, though roughly 15-20 pounds lighter.

Patrick and Hischier spent most of the year at No. 1 and 2 on NHL Central Scouting’s draft rankings, and finished that way as well.

While both would undoubtedly like to go first overall, the honor would hold more significance for Hischier. He’d become the highest drafted Swiss player in NHL history and the first to go No. 1, surpassing Nino Niederreiter — who, ironically enough, went fifth overall at the aforementioned Taylor vs. Tyler draft.

“It would be pretty good,” Hischier said, when asked what going first would mean for Swiss hockey. “For me, it would be an honor for sure. It’d make me proud. Swiss hockey is getting better every year. They do a good job to develop young players.”

The x-factor in all of this, of course, is who will be picking first and second overall.

Right now, the New Jersey Devils are at No. 1 and the Flyers at No. 2, but there’s been rumblings those picks — along with Dallas at No. 3 — could all be in play.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.