What former Devils think of No. 1 pick Nico Hischier, future of team

NEWARK — Fourteen years ago, Grant Marshall made his mark with the Devils after scoring off a rebound in triple overtime to send them to the Eastern Conference Final. 

The retired right wing reminisced about the 2003 Stanley Cup run, including his game-winner against the Lightning, and the day he was drafted by the Maple Leafs a decade earlier as he took in the scene at the Devils Draft Party Friday night.

While the Devils are a ways away from contending for another Stanley Cup, the team took a step in the right direction to get back there after taking Nico Hischier with the first overall pick in the draft.

Like many fans on hand, Marshall was leaning toward Hischier over Nolan Patrick.

“I think I like Nico more, I think he’s a little bit more electric,” Marshall said, before adding, “Listen, can we have them both? Guess not. I’ll take either one.”

For months leading up to the draft, NHL pundits debated whether Hischier or Patrick should go first overall. Patrick went second overall to the Philadelphia Flyers, as both teams continue to retool their rosters. 

Following five straight seasons without playoff hockey, there hasn’t been much buzz around the Prudential Center since the Devils made a cinderella-like run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.

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But the atmosphere around the arena during the first round of the draft made it seem like better days are ahead for the franchise.

“This is just a great experience, to come here, see this event, see the turnout,” former captain Bryce Salvador said. “Everyone having a good time for something as special as this. It doesn’t happen often, unless you’re Edmonton,” he added with a smile. 

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The Oilers had the first selection in the draft four times in the past eight seasons, including three in a row from 2010-2012, a streak that began with current Devil Taylor Hall going to Edmonton with the top pick.

Salvador understands that in order for franchises to have sustained success, they’ll have to go through a dark age.

“Pittsburgh was really bad for a long time,” Salvador said, referencing the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions. “Chicago was really bad for a long time. Los Angeles was bad for a long time. So you have to go through a period of this.”

Those three teams have combined to win the last six Stanley Cups. 

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