With his 5 goals in 6 games, Nico Hischier is currently the top scorer in the World Cup. But the clout of the Valais captain used by Patrick Fischer is measured beyond these numbers.
Ever since his first appearances, Nico Hischier has had to live up to the expectations placed on him. That’s what happens when you’re gifted above average. At every important stage in the career of the boy from Naters, the glasses turn into binoculars. We question. We compare. We evaluate.
While Roman Josi was able to build up in the shadow of defenders like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in Nashville, Nico Hischier always had to deal with the spotlight. In the face. The “privilege” of a June 2017 night in Chicago when his name was first mentioned during the NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils.
Secondary individual success
So when the number 13 announces that he’s joining the national team for the World Cup, the fans rub their hands, already see the goals piling up and dream of a medal. Eager to start a new cycle after the Beijing Olympics, Patrick Fischer sacked some veterans by giving the truck’s keys to young people.
And logically he made Nico Hischier his captain. Not enough to scare the ex-Berner as he already fills that role within the Devils.
“I try not to change,” he says, always putting the team before himself. Individual success is secondary to me. This obviously creates additional pressure, but I was under pressure from the start. Now it’s not just about scoring goals. I can also help the team with hard defensive work.”
An exponential progression
In Helsinki, Hischier gained momentum. In the last three games, the 23-year-old center has become a real leader. There is of course that fantastic goal against Canada. Without even looking in the direction of the goalie, the New Jersey Devils captain sent the puck into Logan Thompson’s top corner.
But there are also blocked shots, notably against Slovakia in the final period at a time when Switzerland weren’t playing smart and Craig Ramsay’s players were pressing. And there are these salvaged pucks in the bands that are connected to this permanent work on the net. “He is loyal to the team,” says his agent Gaëtan Voisard. I saw the weekend’s two games and I saw Nico at the end of the season with New Jersey.
The pimples on his teenage face have disappeared and given way to a young man’s beard. This facial transformation accompanies the development of the game of this precocious talent. Because obviously the progression curve is in the exponential direction. We’re not talking about a Connor McDavid trajectory, but about an athlete who is beginning to find his place in the best league in the world.
Check the expectations placed on him
With 60 points in 70 games, Hischier had his best NHL season in accounting terms. But its impact goes beyond the bare numbers. Defensively responsible since his youth when he dreamed of imitating Pavel Datsyuk, Nico Hischier has almost license to do shadow work, the famous “dirty work” he applauds when speaking of teammate Jonas Siegenthaler.
“I’m a little surprised by the expectations of him in Switzerland, Judge Gaëtan Voisard. He won’t score four points a game, we must not forget that he is a 2-way center and therefore a player we can count on defensively. But there he shows his potential, he expands his register. To be honest, I’m amazed because he’s only 23. But I can see a good 80+ seasons in the future.”
If Switzerland wants to go far in this tournament and finish in the last four, they need an inspired and inspirational Nico Hischier, as emphasized by Tristan Scherwey at the beginning of the tournament. Humble, hardworking and talented, Hischier perfectly embodies the values of this Swiss team and Patrick Fischer’s vision. And in that it is a clear success.
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