The Halifax Mooseheads have had some amazing rookies in recent years. Think Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Nikolaj Ehlers and Timo Meier. But Nico Hischier outdid them all when he scored a freshman-record six points in a 6-4 win over Acadie-Bathurst Oct. 26. Thanks in part to that boffo night, he sat third in the QMJHL with 48 points, four back of teammate Maxime Fortier for the league lead.
Yet it’s not Hischier’s offense that impresses his coach.
“What’s special about him is attention to detail, especially defensively,” said Mooseheads bench boss Andre Tourigny. “He takes so much pride in his defense. It’s unreal.”
That wasn’t always the case. A shift occurred when a coach in Hischier’s native Switzerland scolded him for cheating to create offense. Though he was only 13 at the time, after seeing the video evidence, the lesson stuck with him.
“I always take seriously what the coach is telling me,” Hischier said. “I really took this seriously to become a better player.”
Hischier reminds Tourigny of Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. When it comes to a junior comparable, Tourigny thinks of Boston center Patrice Bergeron, except with more offensive punch than the Bruin managed in the ‘Q’ in 2002-03.
“That’s exactly what I want to be – a two-way center,” Hischier said.
Added Tourigny: “Nico’s not just an offensive player. He’s our best shutdown forward. He’s our best for faceoffs.”
This will be Hischier’s second WJC after picking up two assists in six games for the Swiss in Helsinki last year.
Tourigny believes Hischier might jump to the NHL next season. But, like Toronto’s Mitch Marner, waiting a year would allow Hischier to add more muscle to his six-foot, 174-pound frame.
For now, he’s doing just fine in Halifax. Record-setting performances are nice – so long as he keeps his opponents at bay.
“After the game I was happy about my six-point night,” Hischier said, “but I was most happy that we won this game.”
– DANIEL NUGENT-BOWMAN