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El Nino's Next Step

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders

KLOTEN, Switzerland – 19-year-old forward Nino Niederreiter is one of three NHL players on the Swiss roster. After his first year with the New York Islanders, the youngster is looking to develop further at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

Niederreiter already had some ice time at the Worlds two years ago as a junior, but now he’s expected to get a bigger role.

“It’s great that he’s here. He came two years ago to us as a 17-year-old. He had a good camp. He only played two games only, but he was just 17,” national team coach Sean Simpson said after a practice in the Zurich suburb of Kloten. “There are not many people who play even one game in the Worlds when they’re 17 years old. He’s a very mature 19-year-old now.”

There was much hype about Niederreiter in 2010 when he had a great junior season both with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, but also when he helped eliminate Russia in the World Junior quarter-finals in Saskatoon by scoring two goals for Switzerland.

Some months later he became the highest drafted Swiss player ever, going fifth overall. The New York Islanders sent him down to the junior team after nine games, but 2011/2012 became his first NHL season, although he scored just one goal in 55 games.

“On one hand I can be happy, on the other hand the season was disappointing,” the Chur native said. “I was injured two times and always had to battle hard to get on the line-up and stay there. But in the end I’m happy I could play the full season in the NHL. I was able to learn a lot and I was happy I wasn’t sent back to the juniors.”

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