NASHVILLE – Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are standing a few feet away from each other in the bowels of Bridgestone Arena.
The NHL likes to bring the year’s top draft prospects to the Stanley Cup Final, to give them some early hype before the entry draft a few weeks later. Two years ago, large crowds of reporters circled Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel as the top two prospects in their draft. On Monday, Patrick and Hischier only had a few reporters and a couple of cameras, a much smaller gathering by comparison.
But that’s indicative of this year’s NHL Draft. The vibe is that without a McDavid or an Auston Matthews up top, it’s been characterized as a soft year for talent. The New Jersey Devils winning the lottery was akin to hitting the Powerball jackpot for $2 million after the last drawing was for $700 million.
Naturally, the idea that this year’s draft is a weak one isn’t one Patrick accepts.
“I think the media’s pumping it down more than it is. I think the scouts I talked to this week said it’s an above average draft,” said Patrick, the 18-year-old center for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. “I think the NHL was spoiled with two unbelievable players in the last two years. I don’t think you’re going to get a Conor McDavid for a while. He’s one of the top two players in the NHL and he’s 19 years old. I don’t think any of us think we’re that, and none of us should be compared to a guy like that.”
Without a clear cut No. 1 overall pick, the debates have begun over whether Patrick or Hischier, a center with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, should go to the Devils.
Hischier is trying to become the first Swiss player to be drafted first overall in the NHL. “For me it would be an honor, for sure,” he said.
Patrick is trying to become a first overall pick after missing more than half of last season due to a misdiagnosis of a sports hernia injury. According to the Associated Press, Patrick had surgery to repair one side of his groin last summer, and then needed another surgery to repair the other side of his groin.
He said his health was a huge consideration in his interviews.
“That was about 95 percent of the combine for me. That’s getting pretty old now. Not many people know what happened, but I tell them how it went down. At the end of the day, I’ll be healthy next season,” he said.
What did he tell the teams?
“I don’t want you guys to know anything about it,” he said laughing. “I was misdiagnosed in the summer. That’s why I came back and left again. I’m not going to get into details.”
He said the Devils and Flyers “both understood” his plight. “I’m getting close to 100 percent,” he said.
Barring something unforeseen, either Hischier or Patrick will go first overall. Have they talked about this in their time hanging out?
“No,” said Hischier. “He’s a great guy. I got to know him a little better now. He would be happy for me, I would be happy for him.”
“No, not at all,” said Patrick. “We’ve gotten to know each other for the last two weeks here. We’ve been rooming together here. He’s an awesome guy. He’s obviously ranked first for a reason. Everyone makes it seem like we’re competing against each other. But I’m hoping for the best for him.”
MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS