The 2011-12 season was a difficult one for Islanders forward Nino Niederreiter.
After scoring a goal and an assist in nine games in 2010-11, the Chur, SUI native battled injuries and scored only one point (a goal) in 55 games for the Islanders last season. But as Niederreiter will tell you, with adversity comes education.
“At the end of the day, I learned so many things,” Niederreiter said. “I learned how to play in this league. I know what it takes to have an impact on the team. I would definitely say that I got better in the corners, on the walls and my defensive game. It was a difficult year but I learned a lot.”
Part of that learning process was putting in the extra time on the ice after practice with the coaching staff. It was not uncommon to see Niederreiter skating around, doing drills long after everyone else had finished their workouts. Now, he takes that everyday drive to improve his game into Islanders prospect camp, working hard to improve before next season.
“It was just so important for me to get better and better, especially for the season that’s coming up,” Niederreiter said. “In my mind, if I work as hard as possible, and do what I did last year, then I’m going to be a better, stronger player for next season.”
In May, Niederreiter represented Switzerland in the IIHF World Championship Tournament in Finland and Sweden. Despite the Swiss’ poor finish in the tournament, Niederreiter filled an expanded role, averaging almost 17 minutes of ice time in six games. The 19-year-old believes the increased responsibilities on an international stage helped his development.
“I had a chance to be a bigger leader on that team at a young age,” Niederreiter said. “I had a pretty good role. Most of the time I was trying to get a lot of traffic in front of the net and be a gritty and aggressive player, and I think I did it pretty well.”
The Islanders first-round (fifth overall) selection in the 2010 NHL Draft knows that much is expected of him in the future. Niederreiter’s positive attitude and ability to motivate himself has gone a long way with Islanders management.
"Nino has a strong work ethic and desire to become an elite player," General Manager Garth Snow said. "Like all competitors, he's always going to want more ice time and an increased role, which will come as he develops into a top-6 forward."
Niederreiter knows the importance of every opportunity he has to impress the coaching staff, starting with this week at the prospect mini-camp.
“Summer is going to be big,” Niederreiter said. “I’m going to do the workout that [Director of Sports Performance Sean Donellan] put together. It’s good to be here for the week, so he can see how I’m doing and how I’m feeling.”
While Monday was full of physical testing and off-ice workouts for the players, everyone will lace up their skates on Tuesday. Niederreiter knows the technical aspects of his game that he wants to focus on, but he is also on a mission to set himself apart from the pack.
“I want to get faster and I want to be a better skater,” Niederreiter said. “At the end, I can make many things better. I’m just going to try to be the best player at the camp.”