-- Nino Niederreiter
arrived at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday morning preparing for the fourth day of his first NHL training camp. He left with his first professional contract.
Niederreiter, who became the highest Swiss-born player ever taken when the Islanders chose him with the fifth pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the club. The announcement was made just moments after owner Charles Wang, GM Garth Snow and coach Scott Gordon took turns remarking on their team's chances in 2010-11.
"I'm happy to be a part of the Islanders," said Niederreiter, who turned 18 on Sept. 8. "It's just unbelievable."
Niederreiter has only one season of North American junior hockey on his resume, but what a season it was. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound power forward scored 36 goals and 24 assists in 65 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He added another 8 goals and 8 assists in 13 playoff games.
But that doesn't mean he's locked up an NHL roster spot just yet. Niederreiter fully intends to use the next two weeks to show he's ready to play with the big boys.
"I think I have to show a lot," Niederreiter said. "It's a big battle out there, and anybody can make the team. I know a spot's open and I'd love to use a spot. At the end, it's the coach's decision and the general manager's.
The Islanders could choose to have Niederreiter start the season with them before making a final decision. Niederreiter can play nine NHL games before the first year of his contract goes into effect. But Snow hasn't made any decisions yet.
"We're just going to play out training camp here," he said. "Obviously, he'll be here for the remainder of the training camp and we'll make that decision when the time comes. All he's got to focus on is playing his game. He played extremely well last week in Boston. He's a big body, and that's something he has going in his favor."
If Niederreiter intends to play for the Islanders this season, he'll have to use every inch of what is an impressive frame for someone who just turned 18.
I think I have to show a lot. It's a big battle out there and anybody can make the team. I know a spot's open and I'd love to use a spot. At the end, it's the coach's decision and the general manager's. - Nino Niederreiter
"Nino's had a great junior career so far," Gordon said. "He can skate well. The biggest thing for us is, 'How is he going to adapt playing against men after playing against 16- and 17-year-olds?' (But) you look at Josh (Bailey), and you look at John (Tavares), they're different situations. Nino's situation will probably be different, too. At the end of the day it's going to be, 'How is he going to compete against men?' There's an adjustment period, but certainly (his size) is going to be a huge advantage."
The Islanders kept Niederreiter's signing a secret until all other interviews concluded. Their media day then culminated with the announcement. Reporters actually heard the news before Niederreiter's parents did.
"I just signed maybe an hour, hour and-a-half ago," he said. "I've been trying to stay quiet. Now everybody knows, I guess. I'll call my parents. I'm pretty excited about it." Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL