Kukla's Korner Hockey
by William Morrison on 08/11/11 at 02:43 PM ET
Nino Niederreiter, an 18 year old winger with unlimited potential hopes to play full-time this year for the NY Islanders after spending 2 seasons with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Drafted 5th overall in the 2010 entry draft, he was the highest Swiss player ever taken in the NHL entry draft and only the fourth Swiss player to ever be drafted in the first round.
Niederreiter is just another young budding star for the Islanders. After leading the Winterhawks in goals with 36 in his rookie season, he scored 70 points in 55 games-41G and 29A last season. Nino was called up last October, mainly because of injuries to some key Islanders, and appeared in only nine games. In those nine games, Niederreiter recorded 2 points-1 goal and 1 assist.
Nino has huge potential, not only as a finesse winger with innate scoring ability and great hands around the net, but also as a two-way player who can get physical with opponents when he needs to. In his brief stint in the NHL last year, Nino showed that, even at age 18, he is not afraid to chase the puck around and bang with the big boys (8 PIM in 9 games). He has said that GM Garth Snow hasn’t said anything to him about whether or not he will be in the NHL to start the season, but barring an unforeseen circumstance, “El Nino” will be with the Islanders all season.
Nino carries with him the pressure that the 5th overall pick brings with it, but playing for the Isles this year with others in the spotlight should give him time to develop, learn from his teammates, and be poised for a breakout year in the 2012-2013 season.
Physically, Nino is way beyond what his 18 years of age would indicate. At 6’2”, 205 pounds, he is certainly physically ready to play full-time in the NHL. Having said that, he still can put on a few additional pounds in the weight room. The Isles shouldn’t push him to gain too much weight though, because we certainly don’t want that to take away from his skating ability and speed.
Nino should be a huge fan favorite-the type of player who will establish position in front of the net, but also one who knows how to light the lamp. He plays with the kind of intensity that fans love and has a no holds barred style.
Nino has his first NHL points out of the way, has the initial jitters out of the way and can just go out on the ice, give 110% and just play. I believe that, if in the NHL for the whole season, Niederreiter could realistically contend for the Calder trophy this year. With more experienced players in the lineup who will be carrying a bigger load, Nino won’t have to be directly in the spotlight and will have others to rely on-at least early in the season. I don’t think it is too far of a stretch to think that Nino will net at least 20 goals this season.
If he is with the Islanders for all or at least most of the regular season, the following are my 2011-2012 season predictions: G: 25, A: 20, Points: 45. If my prediction holds true and Nino scores 45 points in his rookie campaign, the Isles fans will be giddy about what is to come from him in the future.
Nino may have been rushed to the NHL a little too quickly last season, but the Islanders had nothing to lose and it was good for him to get his feet wet in the nine games he played. Nino has drawn a lot of comparisons to current NHLers in scouting reports and blogs. I tend to compare him to Marian Hossa, but I think Niederreiter will be a better defensive forward than Hossa.
Having said all of that, we must remember that he is still only 18. The future looks bright for Nino and his career with the Islanders. It is going to be great seeing #25 playing for the Islanders for many years to come. When will we start seeing more #25 jerseys in the stands at the Coliseum?
Time will tell, but I know one thing-I can’t wait.
Follow me on twitter @TheIsleInformer
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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