Taste of NHL leaves Niederreiter wanting more

Nino Niederreiter got a nine-game taste of the NHL with the Islanders last season. His goal this season is a full-time NHL job.

Friday, 07.15.2011 / 9:28 AM ET / News
By Greg Picker
Share with your Friends

Taste of NHL leaves Niederreiter wanting more
Nino Niederreiter got a nine-game taste of the NHL last season after being taken by the New York Islanders in the first round of the Entry Draft. His goal this season is a full-time NHL job.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A taste of the NHL last season has Nino Niederreiter eager for more.

After making Niederreiter the highest-chosen Swiss player in draft history when they took him with the fifth pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, the New York Islanders thought enough of Niederreiter to keep him on the roster when they broke camp last fall. He even scored his first NHL goal.

But after nine games, the maximum before the first year of his entry-level deal would have kicked in, the Islanders sent Niederreiter back to his junior team, the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

Although his time in the NHL was short, it helped Niederreiter understand what he needs to do to make it at the next level. 

"Last year I was living the dream, the nine games," Niederreiter said after his first on-ice session during the Isles' development camp at the Nassau Coliseum. "Now I know how hard I have to work for the next step."

Whatever disappointment he might have had about being sent back to Portland certainly didn't show in his performance -- he scored 41 goals and added 29 assists in just 55 regular-season games, then put up 9 goals and 27 points in 21 playoff games to lead Portland to the WHL finals.

The Islanders have not been hesitant to play highly drafted young prospects in the NHL right away. Josh Bailey, taken No. 9 in 2008, played 68 games with the Islanders during the 2008-09 season, while John Tavares, taken with the first pick in 2009, played in all 82 games in his first season after being drafted.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Niederreiter and several of the club's other top prospects, including 2009 first-round pick Calvin de Haan and 2011 first pick Ryan Strome, will be given every opportunity to make the team out of training camp, regardless of their age. 

"I'm not afraid of youth, I never have been," Capuano said. "The guys that want that job, they want to earn it, and they’re going to get that opportunity come September."

That's good news for Niederreiter, whose early September birthdate made him the youngest player in the League last season. Also, unlike many other young players, Niederreiter's size doesn't appear to be an issue -- he's listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds.

"I think I got a little bit stronger, that’s for sure," Niederreiter said. "But in the end, it's still a long way to go and it's two months until the season starts, so we'll see if I am ready or not."

Capuano, in his first full season as coach on Long Island after running the Isles' AHL team in Bridgeport, noticed the difference.

"Just looking at Nino now and the body and how he's grown into his body, the confidence he's played with, you can see it for sure and you know he's a guy that again come September is going to be pushing hard," Capuano said.

Niederreiter also is much more comfortable in his second development camp.

"Last year I didn't know what to expect," he said. "This year I kind of know what's going to happen. I know it's going to be hard for me this year as well, so it's exciting to be here again."

One thing that figures to help Niederreiter's chances is the return of defenseman Mark Streit, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. Streit not only is one of the NHL's best defenseman, he's also the most accomplished Swiss-born hockey player in the NHL. The two would become only the second pair of Swiss teammates in NHL history, joining Streit and goaltender David Aebischer, who played together in Montreal five years ago.

But to get to that point, Niederreiter knows there's a lot of work to do.

"Last year, I was living a dream of mine," he said of playing in the NHL. "It was just an unbelievable feeling to play up here. I know how hard I have to work for the next steps. It's still my dream to make this team, so hopefully it will happen this year."

Author: Greg Picker | NHL.com Staff Writer




1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48


J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

NewYorkIslanders.com is the official Web site of the New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and NewYorkIslanders.com are trademarks of New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P.  NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.

Privacy Policy |  AdChoices |  Terms of Use |  Contact  Us |  Employment |  Webmaster |  NHL.com Terms of Use