New Jersey Devils centre Nico Hischier is a top centre, but is he elite?
That’s the question. It’s a tough one. There are many elite centremen in the NHL. There’s Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Evgeni Malkin, Aleksander Barkov, John Tavares, Brayden Point, Sean Monahan, Patrice Bergeron, Jack Eichel, Tyler Seguin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Claude Giroux, Mark Scheifele and Ryan Johansen. The centermen listed above are players that you build a team around. These guys are excellent play-makers. They are able to control the puck in all three zones and make dominant plays every single shift.
If you look at the stats, these centremen are superior to everyone else in the NHL. For example, Kuznetsov averages 2.19 Total Assists/60. Out of the list above, he’s got the highest Total Assists/60. After Kuznetsov, Crosby averages 2.16, Johansen averages 2.05, Point averages 2.0 and Eichel averages 2.0.
Unfortunately, Hischier’s offensive production is no where close to those centremen. In 55 games played this season, Hischer averages 1.18 Total Assists/60. In addition, he doesn’t own a high Goals/60. At this moment, he owns 0.88 Goals/60.
Shot Contribution, Entry & Exit
In the below diagrams (A3Z Player Comparison Tool, Created By CJ Turtoro), I chose to compare Hischier’s performance versus Scheifele, Matthews and Crosby.
diagrams created by CJ Turtoro, stats collected by Corey Sznajder
From the above diagrams, you can see that Crosby, Scheifele and Matthews have put up better ShotContr60 and ShotAssists60 than Hischier. But, Hischier’s Shots60 numbers are fairly close to Crosby and are much better than Scheifele’s. When you look at his entry poession numbers, it’s clear that Hischier is the weakest link. Yet, he does post solid exit possession numbers. In fact, his exit possession numbers are better than Crosby’s. Unfortunately his exit possession numbers can’t hide his shot contribution numbers. Without excellent shot contribution statistics, it’s hard to say that Hischier is in the same elite tier as Matthews, Crosby and/or Scheifele.
Second Tier Centre
While Hischier isn’t elite, he does have the potential to be elite.
This season is Hischier’s second season playing in the NHL. It’s difficult to say at this point that he can’t be elite. With the right linemates by his side, Hischier could put up an 80 point plus season. He hasn’t reached that plateau yet, but he doesn’t have the best wingers on his line. Over the course of the last two seasons, Devils winger Taylor Hall has missed time and hasn’t been able to play a full season. This season, Hall has been severely banged up and hasn’t played since December 23rd against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Instead, Hischier is being paired with two top nine forwards. Currently, he’s playing with Marcus Johansson and Jesper Bratt. Both, Bratt and Johansson are solid wingers, but they aren’t who you’d like to have playing top line minutes.
When Hall is back in the lineup, you should expect Hischier’s offensive production to rise. In addition, if the Devils are able to find a solid left winger this summer, that will help Hischier in the long-run. Perhaps, New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero will be able to convince Artemi Panarin or Jeff Skinner to sign with the Devils. If he does, that’ll make the Devils top six much stronger and could potentially get them back into the playoff hunt.
stats from Corey Sznajder, hockey-reference.com, naturalstattrick.com, NHL.com
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals