The Islanders 2010 fifth overall draft pick will not be going back to Junior right away or possibly not at all. Instead, the Islanders have him set as part of their 23-man roster to open the 2010-11 season and he’s hoping to be one of the 20 who dress for opening night on Saturday versus the Dallas Stars.
“It’s a great feeling,” said 18-year-old Nino Niederreiter
. “I was still waiting for a call from Garth (Snow) and everyone. Now I kind of got to know I’m on the team and I’m really happy about it.”
Even if the forward doesn’t get to stay with the Islanders all season, Niederreiter will be the youngest player in the history of the Islanders to play on opening night.
"I don’t know (what to expect on Saturday),” Niederreiter said. “I’m still dreaming about it. Still, dreams come true, I said it was going to happen one day and now it’s coming soon. Hopefully I get the chance to play (on Saturday).”
While he’s already warranted a look in some regular season games, Niederreiter, who surpassed many expectations by going fifth overall in the draft, knows that he still has a lot to prove.
“Oh definitely. I definitely don’t see myself as on the team,” Niederreiter said. “I still have to work hard and we’ll see. I hope I’m going to play in the opener game and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Even if Niederreiter doesn’t stay with the big club all season, he’ll still have up to nine games to prove to the coaching staff that he belongs on the Islanders roster without the first year of his contract kicking in.
As of right now, Islanders head coach Scott Gordon will be taking Niederreiter’s situation one day at a time. “Right now it’s a one game thing and we’ll just approach it one game at a time,” said Gordon. “I don’t think there’s any rush to make a decision.”
He’s more than capable of playing (in the NHL). We have to make sure that it’s the right decision in that he can get the right amount of ice time and the right amount of opportunity to be able to justify our decision to keep him here - Scott Gordon
“He’s more than capable of playing (in the NHL),” Gordon added. “We have to make sure that it’s the right decision in that he can get the right amount of ice time and the right amount of opportunity to be able to justify our decision to keep him here.”
In three nights of exhibition hockey, Niederretier tallied one assist and two penalty minutes. In his final game, the rookie played the majority of the first two periods against the Montreal Canadiens before being slashed in the back of the leg – an injury from which he has fully recovered.
“I tried my best,” Niederreiter said about his performance at the Islanders Training Camp. “Really I was trying to give my best performance. I was working hard and I talked to the guys that have been through the same thing like John Tavares
and Josh Bailey
. They helped me a lot too. Even the veteran guys, (Trevor) Gillies and Doug Weight, they helped me a lot.”
The native of Chur, Switzerland, nicknamed “El Nino” by many, had an incredible first season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, posting 60 points in his first campaign. His 36 goals ranked second among all WHL rookies and his six-game winning goals tied the league lead among rookies.
Niederreiter also led Portland’s roster with eight goals in the WHL playoffs, finishing second on the team with 16 points in 13 games. He was selected to the WHL Western Conference Second All-Star team and played for Team Orr at the 2010 CHL Top Prospects Game, scoring the first goal of the game.
This past year, Niederreiter represented Switzerland for the second year in a row at the World Junior Championships. In 2010, the forward lead the team with 10 points, notching six goals and four assists in seven games. The year before, Niederreiter scored a point per game, tallying three goals and three assists in six games. He also played in four games at the 2010 World Championships.
The rookie will be flying his parents to Long Island so they can watch him make his NHL debut.