Why Hischier is the franchise cornerstone the Devils have been waiting for

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When the New Jersey Devils selected forward Nico Hischier with the first overall draft pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, it signified an end of an era in the swamp.

Gone are the days of the trap, Scott Stevens, Martin Brodeur, and low-scoring games, as a new offensive age of Devils hockey is being ushered in on the back of their rookie phenom.

The Devils have built a reputation as a boring, defensive-minded club prone to tight-checking games. That wasn't always a big box-office attraction, but they took home nine division titles, five conference championships, and three Stanley Cups between 1995 and 2012. However, now they aren't succeeding with that style - New Jersey's failed to qualify for the playoffs the last five years.

Between its struggles in the standings and the lack of a marquee name, the club's attendance has also languished. The Devils have barely hit an average of 15,000 fans per game over the last five seasons.

Hischier's No. 1 overall draft pick status should help put people in the seats, but it's his ability to put the puck in the net that really makes him the player the Devils have been waiting for.

The speedy forward registered stellar offensive numbers during his only campaign of North American hockey. In just 57 regular-season games for the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads, Hischier racked up 86 points last season while finishing with a plus-minus rating of plus-20.

That compares pretty favorably to another former Moosehead who went first overall. Nathan MacKinnon had 78 points across 58 regular-season games with Halifax during the 2011-12 season and went on to star for the Colorado Avalanche, scoring 50-plus points in three of his four NHL seasons - and he's just getting warmed up.

Hischier's already had a promising showing with New Jersey, although two preseason games are nothing to get overly hyped up about. Still, he's scored two goals and played nearly 16 minutes a night while showing off a slick pair of mitts, leaving Devils fans to salivate over the potential future face of the franchise.

And the supporting cast gives them even more reason to be excited. In addition to Hischier, New Jersey boasts some solid top-six forwards, including Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson, and Kyle Palmieri. With Hischier in the mix, that unit's vastly improved compared to seasons past (although there's no telling how soon he'll become a regular NHL presence).

The Swiss native's offensive upside may be obvious, but it's not all he brings to the table. Hischier also has the potential to develop into the leader the club's sorely lacked since Scott Niedermayer left the team in 2005.

Current Ottawa Senators gaffer Guy Boucher coached Hischier during his time with SC Bern of the Swiss National League and praised his maturity.

"He manages the game like an adult, like a man," Boucher said, according to Guillaume Lepage of NHL.com. "Great vision, great poise, but he's always in the right place defensively too, which puts him ahead of a lot of young guys. They rarely have both sides of the ice figured out, especially at that age."

His junior teammates praised his ability to set an example. Benoit-Olivier Groulx described him as "mentally strong" and added, "I've learned a lot from him on the ice and off. He's already a professional."

It's early to predict that an 18-year-old rookie with zero NHL regular-season experience will be rocking the "C" in Jersey, but there are signs that he has the type of mentality that will earn the respect of his coaches and teammates.

On the ice, in the dressing room, and away from the rink, Hischier seems to be the complete package that the Devils have been missing to drive the franchise for the foreseeable future.

While Stevens and Brodeur had their own way of leading New Jersey, it's time for Hischier and the boys to blaze their own path in the league.

One goal at a time.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)