NEWARK, N.J. (AP) At the end of the second of three practice sessions Friday at the New Jersey Devils’ development camp, top overall pick Nico Hischier, was on his hands and knees, scooping up pucks, just like everyone else.
The novelty of being the No. 1 draft pick is rapidly wearing off for Hischier, thanks to the three-day developmental camp at the Barnabas Health Hockey House, the Devils’ practice facility next to the Prudential Center.
“Right after the draft, I was living the life a little,” said the 18-year-old Swiss player who had 38 goals and 48 assists last season for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. “I was doing all these fun things, like going to a baseball game and a soccer game. I was in Times Square and was on television. But now, I’m here and I’m working hard on the ice.”
Hischier doesn’t want special treatment.
“I don’t want to be known as the guy who didn’t pick the pucks up,” Hischier said. “I’m still one of the younger guys here. I want to fit in. I’m going to focus on that.”
Hischier went through the hour-long instructional drill session with ease. He was wearing No. 33 on with other players donning obscure sweater numbers like 59, 67 and 78. He was just one of the guys, doing the intense stick handling and skating drills.
“I’m taking it all step by step,” Hischier said. “It’s only been a couple of days on the ice. I was able to meet the (coaching) staff and the players. But I’m just another player here. My practice skill set has to get better.”
Hischier said that his first line of importance was getting more comfortable with being property of the New Jersey Devils – even though he has yet to sign his rookie contract.
“It’s getting better and better every day,” Hischier said. “I’m going to take as much as I can out of this camp, because I’m still learning and I’m trying to improve my game.”
The Devils’ coaching staff has already been impressed with the teenager.
“One of the things that we really liked about him when we did our research was his passion for the game,” coach John Hynes said. “He trains hard and is a very good teammate. It’s what we were looking for with the first pick.”
But Hynes would not go as far as to consider Hischier a lock to be on the Opening Day roster come October.
“It’s still too early to judge that,” Hynes said. “I would say at this point that he has the skill level and the ability to play. But there’s still time before our training camp. He has some work to do, but we’re going to give him an opportunity to win a job.”