Nico or Nolan – NHL ’94 Style

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By Dan Silver (@dsilver88)

The Flyers Have the #2 Pick!

In case you’ve been living on Jupiter for the past month, the Philadelphia Flyers made the biggest leap in the history of the NHL Draft Lottery – parlaying a 7.2% chance of picking in the top three into the second overall pick.

Considering that the Flyers barely missed the playoffs and have arguably the deepest prospect pool in the league, the impact of acquiring the #2 pick cannot be overstated. It might make the difference between the Flyers falling just short of a championship within the next five years versus the team bringing Philadelphia its first Stanley Cup since 1975.

The consensus top two players available in the upcoming June 23rd NHL Draft are Nolan Patrick, of the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings, and Nico Hischier, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Halifax Mooseheads. Going into the 2016-17 season, Patrick was tops on almost everyone’s list, a 6’3″ center mentioned in the same breath as Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel.

However, an injury-riddled campaign for Patrick combined with a sensational season for the Swiss-born, 6’0″ center Hischier has led to conflicting opinions on who will be drafted first by the New Jersey Devils.

I have previously written here that the Flyers would be taking an unprecedented risk, based on his injury history, if they draft Patrick with the second pick, and that for that reason I’d prefer they end up with Hischier. My opinion on that has not changed, but for the purposes of this article, we are going to take Patrick’s injury history out of the equation and go solely on ability.

I’ve decided that there’s only one way to truly determine who is the better player…

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NHL ’94 For the Win

At the risk of dating myself, let me state that bar none NHL ’94 is the greatest sports video game of all time. Fellow PhillyIsFlyer.com writer Marc Naples (@SuperScrub47) and I played ad nauseam in high school. Pathetically enough, we completed a best of 501 series of NHL ’94, which he won something like 251-246. I don’t think we had too many dates in high school…

More importantly for the purposes of this article, NHL ’94 was one of the first hockey games to introduce a sophisticated player rating system.

So we are going to use the NHL ’94 player rating system – based on 11 categories with a 0-99 scale – to finally determine who is better – Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick!

For the purposes of the ratings, we will assume that a 60 rating is average, 70 is pretty good, 80 is excellent, 90 is superb, and anything over 90 is elite.

For a point of reference, here are the 10 players who were rated 90+ in NHL ’94

  1. Mario Lemieux – 100
  2. Ray Bourque – 99
  3. Ed Belfour – 98
  4. Alexander Mogilny – 96
  5. Steve Yzerman – 95
  6. Patrick Roy – 94
  7. Adam Oates – 93
  8. Pat Lafontaine – 91
  9. Pavel Bure – 90
  10. Teemu Selanne – 90

Before I get into the category rankings for Hischier and Patrick, allow me to provide the following…

**Disclaimer – I am not a professional scout. I watched every Brandon Wheat Kings playoff game in 2016, and was able to get a good feel for Patrick. I watched most of the Switzerland games in the most recent World Junior Championships, but have not seen any Halifax Mooseheads games from start to finish. My ratings are based mainly on the full games I have watched and to a somewhat lesser degree on highlights. I take other people’s opinions into consideration, but feel strongly that it’s important to base strong opinions on my own personal viewing**

OK good, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!

#1 – Agility

Agility is defined as a player’s ability to move quickly and easily. Both Patrick and Hischier are very agile. Given Patrick’s big frame, his agility is something that many seem to overlook.

Here he is using his quickness to get around one of the Flyers top defensive prospects, Travis Sanheim, and set up a nice goal.

Sanheim is an agile defender, which makes Patrick’s quick move around him all the more impressive.

Meanwhile, superior agility is a hallmark of Hischier’s game. Just take a look at how, in the blink of an eye, he moves around Bruins top defense prospect Charlie McAvoy in the World Junior Championship quarterfinals.

In the end, both players are extremely agile, but the slight edge goes to Hischier.

Nico Hischier – 90

Nolan Patrick – 80

#2 – Speed

This is going to be very similar to the agility category. For a big man, Patrick is deceptively fast. Take a look at how quickly he burns past the defenseman in the first highlight on the below clip.

 

However, Hischier is a flat-out burner. While the below two clips look like carbon copies, they’re not. He goes end-to-end like nobody’s business.

What’s really incredible is how effortless Hischier’s speed looks. He’s flying past opposing players and doesn’t even look like he’s working that hard to do it.

Hischier’s speed is one of his best assets and gives him another NHL ’94 category against Patrick.

Nico Hischier – 90

Nolan Patrick – 75

#3 – Offensive Awareness

I’m defining offensive awareness as having good vision of the entire ice surface, which improves a player’s playmaking ability and gives them a knack for helping their team light the lamp.

For example, Wayne Gretzky always knew where everyone was on the ice, which in turn made him a terrific passer. However, Gretzky’s unparalleled offensive awareness also allowed him to know when to shoot instead of trying to force the puck to a teammate.

The videos that I’m going to post later in the pass accuracy category for both players are ones that I feel do a good job of displaying their offensive awareness.

While Hischier is very capable of finding open teammates on the ice, this is an area where Patrick really excels.

Hischier’s tremendous play-making ability is mainly due to his agility, speed, and stickhandling ability, whereas Patrick, who is also a fantastic play-maker, leans on his vision and smarts to set up teammates and create optimal scoring chances.

I’m giving Patrick the slight edge in offensive awareness.

Nolan Patrick – 85

Nico Hischier – 80

#4 – Defensive Awareness

I’m defining defensive awareness as how much a player pays attention to making plays and being in position to help prevent the opposing team from scoring goals. This includes better ability to take away passing lanes, lower susceptibility to getting “burned,” and greater effort on the back check.

Both Hischier and Patrick demonstrate decent defensive awareness. They back-check aggressively and parlay their hockey smarts into helping prevent opposing teams from scoring goals.

Plus/minus can be a flawed statistic, as a player can do everything right but get a minus based on a poor play by a teammate, but it is still one of the main core statistics used to evaluate a player’s defensive awareness.

Patrick was a plus-88 in his 191 games over four seasons with Brandon, while Hischier was a plus-20 in 57 games with Halifax this season. A lot of those pluses can be attributed to their offensive prowess, but it’s still a very positive indicator.

I feel that these two players rate very closely in defensive awareness.

Nolan Patrick – 65

Nico Hischier – 65

#5 Shot Power and #6 Shot Accuracy

I am going to lump these two categories together for write-up purposes, while giving each player a separate score in both.

Nolan Patrick has an absolutely tremendous shot. His release is near-instantaneous, his precision is laser accurate, and he gets it there in a hurry.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at these beauties:

No water bottle is safe when the puck is on Patrick’s stick in the offensive zone!

Hischier doesn’t have quite as hard or as accurate a shot as Patrick, but he still can get the puck off his stick in a hurry and pick the top shelf.

Here’s a good example of him doing this in traffic:

I especially love how even though he receives the puck in a non-optimal shooting position, he still quickly is able to get it off his stick and instinctively find the net.

In terms of shot power, Patrick has a distinct advantage. He can fire one-timers in a similar fashion as Claude Giroux from the left face-off circle on the power play.

Hischier isn’t going to wow anyone with his shot power, and is at a big disadvantage to Patrick in this category.

Nolan Patrick – Shot Power 85, Shot Accuracy 80

Nico Hischier – Shot Power 65, Shot Accuracy 75

#7 – Pass Accuracy

Patrick and Hischier are both very good passers. They put pace on their passes, and more often than not the puck goes where they are trying to get it.

Take a look at these two beauties by Patrick. The first pass is the more impressive of the two, in my opinion. While skating backwards in the offensive zone, he is able to saucer a pass that hits Los Angeles Kings prospect Kale Clague in stride – just an absolute beauty! This pass also showcases Patrick’s offensive awareness.

The second pass in the sequence is a nice no-look dish that set up a perfect one-timer from teammate Macoy Erkamps.

Hischier is also a very good passer, and here are two examples. On the first one, Hischier shows tenacity to steal the puck from a defender, and then lifts a perfect saucer pass to a teammate.

On the second one, he uses his speed to get around a defenseman, and then shows terrific vision and offensive awareness by sliding a quick backhand pass into the perfect shooting position for a teammate’s slam dunk. Nice!

As you can see, Patrick and Hischier are both very good passers. However, I am going to give Patrick the slight edge in this category because to this point in their careers, Patrick has demonstrated a slightly more pass-oriented mentality than Hischier.

Nolan Patrick – 80

Nico Hischier – 75

#8 – Stickhandling

Nico Hischer is an absolute wizard with the puck on his stick.

As I’ve been going through these NHL ’94 categories, it’s become clear to me that what makes Hichier so special are his agility, speed, and stickhandling. In the below goal, he shows off all of those qualities.

I mean seriously, are you kidding me? He looks like a mix between Pavel Bure and Pavel Datsyuk on that one. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Patrick is a very good stickhandler, and is good at using his body as a shield to protect the puck. In the below clip, on a play started by Ivan Provorov, Patrick shows off some fancy stickhandling and a fine finish.

Maybe we’ll be seeing more of that Provorov-Patrick connection in the coming years. – orange and black style!

The bottom line is while Patrick is an above average stickhandler, Hischier is simply sublime.

Nico Hischier – 90

Nolan Patrick – 75

#9 – Endurance

The NHL ’94 endurance rating dictates the rate at which the player recovers energy when not skating with high effort. Fatigue will play a greater factor if a player has low endurance. Fatigue affects both skating ability and shooting.

Both Patrick and Hischier have very good endurance.

Patrick played 93 games (72 regular season and 21 playoff) with Brandon in 2015-16, leading them to the WHL championship.

Hischier hasn’t shown that type of durability over the course of a season, but in the World Juniors he put his Swiss teammates on his back and almost singlehandedly defeated eventual Gold Medalists USA in the quarter-finals.

We already showed his first goal of the game earlier (walking Charlie McAvoy), and look at the drive and tenacity he showed on the game-tying goal:

Patrick has displayed endurance over the course of a full season + playoffs, and Hischier has shown the ability to get stronger and dominate the more important the situation.

One could argue that Patrick’s injuries this season should play a part in the endurance rating, but since I’m not taking the injuries into account for this piece, I won’t hold them against him here.

I give Patrick the slight edge here because of his 2015-16 season.

Nolan Patrick – 80

Nico Hischier – 75

#10 – Aggressiveness

In the NHL video game series, this attribute gives a bonus to hitting intensity. In the game, a big hit intimidates opponents and in high-pressure situations, an intimidated opponent will have reduced shot quality, pass accuracy and reduced aggression.

I don’t think either Hischier or Patrick rate very highly on the aggression scale. Patrick has a bigger frame, and tends to be slightly more physical than Hischier, but neither are known for their intimidation.

I’m going to give Patrick a slight edge due to his size.

Nolan Patrick – 65

Nico Hischier – 60

#11 – Checking

This attribute covers a players effectiveness at body checking, stick checking, and poke checking.

Neither Patrick nor Hischier are known for laying out opponents on a regular basis with body checks. However, if the system calls for it, they can both be active forecheckers.

Here’s Patrick with a terrific strip of a defender behind the net followed by a nice finish.

A really tenacious play by Patrick to create a turnover and score a goal for his team.

Meanwhile, here’s a sensational shift in the offensive zone from Hischier where he ultimately collects an assist after stripping a defender of the puck.

While both players are capable of aggressive forechecking, I am going to give Patrick a slight edge in the checking category because while he doesn’t do it often, he as been known to dish out a big hit here or there.

Nolan Patrick – 70

Nico Hischier – 65

Final Ratings – The Moment is Here!

We’ve now graded Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick in all 11 of the NHL ’94 player attribute categories.

So how does it break down?

NHL ’94 Rating Category Nolan Patrick Nico Hischier
Agility 80 90
Speed 75 90
Offensive Awareness 85 80
Defensive Awareness 65 65
Shot Power 85 65
Shot Accuracy 80 75
Pass Accuracy 80 75
Stickhandling 75 90
Endurance 80 75
Aggressiveness 65 60
Checking 70 65

Of the 11 player attribute categories, Patrick was rated more highly in offensive awareness, shot power, shot accuracy, pass accuracy, endurance, aggressiveness, and checking, Hischier was rated more highly in agility, speed, and stickhandling, and they were a push in defensive awareness.

Even though Patrick took seven categories, Hischier received the only 90 ratings – agility, speed, and stickhandling.

So while Patrick took more NHL ’94 rating categories than Hischier, the latter has more high-end ability.

But I know you all want the bottom line, so without further adieu…

Nolan Patrick – 840 Total Points, 76.4 Rating

Nico Hischier – 830 Total Points, 75.5 Rating

So there it is! Nolan Patrick is the slightly better NHL ’94 player! For the final rating, I simply added up the points and divided by 11. That might not be the exact way that it was done in the game, but for our purposes it will suffice.

Both Patrick and Hischier would be considered very good players in NHL ’94, with terrific offensive ability and the potential to become mid-80 to lower-90 rated players.

Either way, it’s quite evident that the Flyers are going to get a very talented and exciting player with the #2 overall pick in the upcoming draft!

**Special thanks to Marc Naples (@SuperScrub47) for the awesome NHL ’94 Nico and Nolan pixel players**

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Dan Silver

I'm a lifelong Flyers fan and season ticket holder who was born too late to enjoy the Stanley Cups in the 1970's. I'd give anything to have been at the Spectrum for the first Cup win and the game against the Soviet Red Army team. I firmly believe the Flyers will win a Cup within the next decade. One of my professional highlights was working as a play-by-play announcer for the Missouri River Otters minor league hockey team in the now-defunct United Hockey League. That was a real thrill!

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5 thoughts on “Nico or Nolan – NHL ’94 Style

  1. “the impact of acquiring the #2 pick cannot be overstated. ”

    The impact of this #2 pick by the Flyers will surely cure cancer, solve the Middle East peace process, and invent the delicious zero-calorie dollar slice.

  2. Amazing analysis. Fun read and informative. I am hoping Patrick slips to #2. At the NHL level, stick handling, skating and agility get normalized as every player is a better overall athlete, you can’t expect to school pros with fancy dangles night in night out. The Flyers really need a sniper and Patrick’s wrister is a beast. Deadly 1v1 finisher.

    1. Thanks for the nice comment and glad you liked the piece. I think Hischier is so good in those three categories that he will be able to impact NHL games with them, but your point is well taken about Patrick’s sniping ability. I’d be thrilled with either.

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