Don’t expect them to play into the rivalry any time soon.
Originally published June 2017 via FlockU.
After a full 12 months of speculation, countless lists of insiders ranking players, and a very unexpected emergence of a new number one, the NHL’s Class of 2017 is complete.
Historically, the first and second overall picks are pitted against each other and branded as rivals for their entire careers. It becomes the one of the only narratives that follows the player, and comes up especially when the two players play each other.
The biggest storyline leading up to the entry draft was undoubtedly what the New Jersey Devils were planning to do with the first overall pick, that they won after jumping 5 spots in the lottery. New Jersey could trade the pick, but more realistically, everyone knew that the Devils’ camp would be making a decision between two players who have flip-flopped in the number one ranking. Would it be Nolan or Nico?
Unlike the past two drafts, this class didn’t have that clear cut number one guy. Drafting Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews first overall was a no-brainer. 2017 had two guys competing for that top spot: Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier
In the end, the Devils kept the pick to select Hischier, a Swiss-born center who, at the beginning of the season, was projected to be a mid-to-late first round pick. In only one North American season, Hischier rose to prominence as a legitimate threat to the first overall pick, which had been projected to be Patrick since he was 16 years old.
With Hischier going to New Jersey, it was a no brainer for Philadelphia to use the second overall pick to select Patrick.
Both players would have fit on either team, but following the draft Patrick didn’t seem too upset with dropping into second overall. He told a Philadelphia reporter, “They wanted him and it’s not like I’m sitting here mad wishing I went to Jersey.”
In fact, Hischier and Patrick are really happy for each other after getting to know each other through the draft process.
“Everyone makes it seem like we’re competing against each other,” Patrick told reporters prior to the draft.
So, are Nolan and Nico be next in line to be branded rivals in the season following their draft year?
Some outlets certainly think so, but don’t expect either of them to play into it.
In the past, the first and second overall picks have not gone to teams that are historical rivals the way the Devils and the Flyers are with the “Battle of the Turnpike”, but that didn’t stop McDavid vs. Eichel and Matthews vs. Laine from coming up any time the two teams played each other.
McDavid and Eichel have been fielding questions about the other since before they were even drafted, when McDavid emerged as the obvious favorite for number one. Ahead of their first match up, McDavid admitted to not really knowing Eichel, while Eichel was completely dismissive about answering McDavid-related questions.
Matthews and Laine have also acknowledged the “rivalry” between them. There are absolutely no similarities between the two beyond being born in the same draft window, but the two times they faced each other this season, the media spectacle surrounding them was big and over-hyped. It definitely didn’t help that Laine’s first career hat trick came against Matthews and the Leafs.
It’s still too early to tell what storylines will surround the first meeting of the Flyers and Devils, which isn’t until January 13 of next year, but it’s a safe bet to say that a Patrick vs. Hischier rivalry is on the horizon, no matter how fabricated it may be.
There’s nothing but respect and friendship between the two of them.