CHICAGO (CBSNewYork/AP) — A new era for the New Jersey Devils has begun.
Coming off a 28-40-14 season, their worst in nearly three decades, the Devils haven’t qualified for the playoffs since getting to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.
But they caught a break on April 29, winning the NHL Draft Lottery.
On Friday night, New Jersey selected Nico Hischier with the No. 1 pick, making the 18-year-old center the highest drafted Swiss player in league history.
Hischier had 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this past season. He spent the previous two seasons in the Swiss pro league, where he was coached by current Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher.
“I’m speechless,” Hischier said shortly after being picked. “I don’t know what to say. It’s just an incredible feeling. You can’t describe it.”
Hischier fits in nicely with general manager Ray Shero’s desire to put a faster team on the ice. But Hischier is listed at 6-foot-2 and 179 pounds, and will need to put on more muscle to succeed in the NHL.
“I love hockey,” Hischier said. “It’s my biggest goal to play in the NHL. I’m so happy.”
Nolan Patrick, the Brandon Wheat Kings star, held the top spot in the NHL Central Scouting Department’s final rankings in April. He went second to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 18-year-old Winnipeg, Manitoba, native sustained a sport hernia last summer that hampered him during his season in the Western Hockey League, but he finished with 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games.
“Once we gathered all the information we felt comfortable that if he was there for us we were going to take him,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights made center Cody Glass their first-ever pick at No. 6.
Glass, another 18-year-old forward, had 32 goals and 62 assists in 69 games last season for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.
“It’s unbelievable,” Glass said. “Obviously, it’s an historic day, and to be part of the Vegas organization is unbelievable. Words can’t describe how I feel right now.”
In all, 10 of the top 13 picks were listed as centers. Defensemen Miro Heiskanen (No. 3 overall to Dallas) and Cale Makar (No. 4 to Colorado) and right wing Owen Tippett (No. 10 to Florida) the lone exceptions. Vegas also opted for another forward prospect with its second of three picks in the first round, taking Nick Suzuki at No. 12 before selecting Swedish defenseman Erik Brannstrom with the 15th pick.
“The forward group is real strong,” New Jersey general manager Ray Shero said.
After a symphony of boos for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and most of Chicago’s rivals across the league, the crowd cheered when the Blackhawks finally got on the clock at No. 26. But they promptly moved back three spots in a deal with Dallas in the first of three trades announced during the first round.
The St. Louis Blues sent forward Jori Lehtera and two draft picks to Philadelphia for Brayden Schenn, and also traded physical forward Ryan Reaves to the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
The crowd at the United Center cheered again when the Blackhawks got back on the clock, and general manager Stan Bowman played to the roaring fans when he brought out captain Jonathan Toews and star winger Patrick Kane to announce their selection of Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharu.
“Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane call my name, and it can’t be a better feeling,” Jokiharu said.
The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning opted for players with family ties to the NHL. New York got the No. 7 pick in a trade with Arizona and selected center Lias Andersson, whose father Niklas played in the league. Callan Foote, who went to Tampa Bay at No. 14, is the son of two-time Stanley Cup champion Adam Foote.
“It’s nice to have someone like him on my side,” Callum Foote said.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)