Nico Hischier replaced Kyle Palmieri as the New Jersey Devils’ representative for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. (Palmieri suffered an injury blocking a shot during the Devils’ upset win over the Lightning on Sunday.)
This marks the first All-Star Game appearance for Hischier, 21, the first pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.
There might be a temptation to throw Hischier in with the Devils’ many problems. After all, the Devils lucked into two top overall picks (with Jack Hughes being the latest from 2019), made strong trades including landing Taylor Hall, yet couldn’t get it done.
Don’t blame Hischier, though.
The Swiss-born center ranks among the Devils’ brightest spots — alongside Palmieri, honestly. The young forward brings plenty to the table while rarely taking anything away. Consider his heatmap from Hockey Viz as just one illustration of Hischier’s many strengths:
If standard offensive stats work better for you, Hischier passes those tests, unless you’re grading him too harshly based on his draft status. Hischier ranks second on the Devils in scoring (28 points in 40 games), trailing only Palmieri (31 points in 44). In case you’re wondering, Hall was at 25 points in 30 games before being traded to the Coyotes.
The Devils need more players like Hischier. If his career trajectory continues as such, we also might see more of Hischier in future All-Star Games.
The 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2020 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 25 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.
The New Jersey Devils invested a lot in Jack Hughes when they made him the top overall pick of the 2019 NHL draft this past June. Every time he takes the ice this season, the hope is he continues to improve.
On Sunday, Hughes took another important step when he scored his first game-winning goal in overtime to propel the Devils to a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Kyle Palmieri sent a floating pass down the middle of the ice that allowed Hughes to turn on the jets and create a breakaway for himself. The 18-year-old forward wisely kept the puck in front of him and to the right in order to prevent Jean-Gabriel Pageau from disrupting the play. Hughes then made a subtle move to his forehand and flipped the puck over the glove of Craig Anderson before celebrating with teammates.
Hughes was not the only positive from the victory as Nikita Gusev scored for the second time in as many games and Sami Vatanen boosted his trade value by recording three assists. Mackenzie Blackwood made 20 saves to help New Jersey extend its point streak to three games.
Hughes recorded his first game-winning goal in regulation earlier this season when the Devils defeated Quinn Hughes and the Vancouver Canucks in the middle of October. Hughes also recorded the secondary assist on Gusev’s goal, giving him his first multi-point game since November 7th and third NHL game with two or more points.
The Devils were expected to compete for a playoff spot this season but find themselves near the bottom of the NHL standings through 35 games. While bigger things were anticipated in New Jersey this season, the best thing that could happen for the franchise is Hughes continues his development and forms a dynamic duo with Nico Hischier for years to come.
His first overtime goal is another step in the right direction.
1) Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues
Allen lost his starting job to Jordan Binnington last season, but the backup goaltender has become a critical position as load management continues to be a hot topic. Binnington took over the starting role in January and has never gone through the rigors of a full NHL season. Allen made 35 saves Wednesday as the Blues defeated the Oilers 2-1 and picked up their fourth straight victory.
2) Pavel Francouz, Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are the hottest team in the NHL and might have a goalie controversy on their hands. Francouz has been stellar between the pipes while Grubauer missed a few games with a lower-body injury. The Czech netminder made 31 saves as the Avalanche rebounded from their first regulation loss in 10 games earlier this week. With a 9-1-1 record in the past 11 games, the Avalanche appear to be ready to fight the Blues for the Central Division title.
3) Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils
With Taylor Hall gone, Palmieri has risen to the top of the Devils depth chart as their go-to scoring forward. He might be a prime chip at this year’s trade deadline with another year remaining at a manageable $4.65 million AAV. Cam Fowler refused to challenge Palmieri before the alternate captain wired a wrist shot to give the Devils a one-goal lead in their 3-1 victory over the Ducks.
Highlights of the Night
MacKinnon had two must-see moments on one goal in the second period against the Blackhawks. The way he collected the puck just outside the blueline, and then the wicked wrister that bounced off the cross-bar and in.
Brayden Schenn didn’t waste much time on this breakaway
Stat of the Night
New Jersey Devils 3, Anaheim Ducks 1
Colorado Avalanche 3, Chicago Blackhawks 1
St. Louis Blues 2, Edmonton Oilers 1
1) Blake Coleman, New Jersey Devils
When your birthday is in late November, it usually falls on American Thanksgiving once in a while. Coleman celebrated with his first career four-point game in the Devils’ 6-4 win against the Canadiens. He scored his eighth of the season when he opened the scoring at the Bell Centre at 7:19 of the first period. Nikita Gusev faked a shot then slid a pass through Shea Weber as he and Coleman executed a two-on-one opportunity. Coleman would go on to add two more assists and an empty netter to seal the 6-4 victory late in the third period.
2) Nikita Gusev, New Jersey Devils
The Russian winger collected three assists and recorded his first multi-point game of his NHL career. Gusev has 11 points in 21 games this season and has effectively made a smooth transition to North America after playing the previous four seasons in the KHL. The Devils have not gotten the goaltending needed to have a realistic shot at reaching the postseason, but Gusev’s ability to adapt to new surroundings has been a minor bright spot in a bleak season.
3) Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils
Zajac wonderfully batted a bouncing puck past Carey Price as the alternate captain collected his third goal of the season to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Gusev picked up his second assist of the night when he sent a fluttering puck toward the net. Zajac darted toward the cage and got behind Jesperi Kotkaniemi before the beautiful finish.
Highlight of the night
Price has been under a lot of scrutiny due to his inconsistent play in recent games. At the end of the second period, Price reminded Kyle Palmieri and the audience why he is one of the best goaltenders of this generation with this stellar glove save.
- The Canadiens set a franchise record by allowing 20 goals in their last three home games [Sportsnet Stats].
- The Devils improved to 7-0-2 in their last nine games against the Canadiens dating back to February 27, 2017 [NHL PR].
- The Devils/Rockies/Scouts franchise earned a win on U.S. Thanksgiving for the third time in its history [NHL PR].
- On this date 40 years ago, Billy Smith of the New York Islanders became the first goalie in NHL history to be credited with a goal [NHL PR].
Devils 6, Canadiens 4
The final minute of the third period in Saturday’s Montreal-New Jersey game devolved into weirdness when the Canadiens thought they had scored a late goal to gain the upper hand on the Devils.
It was not to be after a review because it was determined that Canadiens forward Phillip Danault had “kicked” the puck into the net with his … leg? … Knee? … Hip? Whatever it was, it was a body part that he wasn’t allowed to use to guide the puck into the net. That ruling sent the game to overtime where Kyle Palmieri scored on the power play to give the Devils a 4-3 win after overcoming a two-goal deficit.
They have now won three out of four games.
But let’s get back to that bizarre non-goal for the Canadiens because there was a lot going on in that sequence. Including…
- It all started with Shea Weber trying to blast a one-timer from the blue line only to have his stick shatter upon making contact with the puck.
- The puck slowly rolled to Brendan Gallagher who was in perfect position to get a point-blank shot at the net, only to have Mackenzie Blackwood get a piece of it.
- From there, the puck trickled along the goal crease where Devils forward Nico Hischier appeared to cover the puck which should have resulted in a penalty shot. The referees either did not see that or did not feel it was worthy of being called. There was also a trip in there, just for good measure.
- It was at that point that Danault saw the puck sitting on the goal line and attempted to — for lack of a better word — thrust it over the line. “A” for effort, high marks for creativity and doing whatever it takes, but that is against the rules.
From NHL Rule 78.1:
A goal cannot be scored when the puck has been deliberately batted with any part of the attacking player’s body into the net.
So there you go.
You can see the entire sequence in the video above.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.