This time last year, Nino Niederreiter
arrived on Long Island for his first Rookie Camp. In his first exhibition game for the blue and orange, he showed heart; he not only did he score a goal, but also had his first career fight. Most of all, the Swiss power forward impressed Islanders management enough to receive an invitation to Islanders Training Camp.
But this season, Niederreiter comes to camp with a new outlook.
“Last year, I was way more nervous,” Niederreiter said. “I didn’t know what to expect... I think I definitely feel better this year.”
Despite his nerves, he made enough of an impression to play the first nine games of the Islanders 2010-11 season. And while it’s every player’s dream to make it to the National Hockey League, Niederreiter isn’t going to get ahead of himself.
When asked if he’s thought about his chances of making the team this season, he said, “I’ve got to take it step by step, then we’ll see how it goes.”
In the off season, Niederreiter took steps to improve his skating.
“I went to a power skating camp," Niederreiter said. I think I improved a lot. The first three steps is definitely something I could improve. I worked hard.”
Easing back into the locker room with the rest of the rookies, Niederreiter said he’s glad to be back.
“It was good to see all of the boys back,” Niederreiter said. “Everybody’s excited for the rookie games. I’ve got to say the ice was a little soft out there so it was little tough to handle the puck, but I think it was good first practice.”
Niederreiter wasn’t the only one who had a good first day. Ryan Strome
, the Islanders fifth overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is back for his second camp on Long Island, though he knows this one carries a bit more weight.
“This is what we train for all summer,” Strome said. “This is the big camp.”
While he hopes to make a good impression at camp, Strome said he knows making it to the NHL is an uphill battle.
“I just know there’s a long ways to go still,” Strome said. “There are a lot of solid caliber players, just like the last camp. There’s a lot of older guys, a lot of skill guys and guys who are really big. It’s a chance for me to take what I learned in the pro atmosphere out here. I have a taste of what it’s like and now I have to try to adopt that to my everyday life.”
Playing in the exhibition games is something he’s looking forward to.
“I just want to make myself a better player,” Strome said. “It’s a good chance for me to prove myself. We’re going to be playing against the Boston rookies. There are a lot of good players there as well.”
When it comes to the Bruins rookies, Strome has an advantage over some of the other Islanders prospects. Boston’s ninth overall pick, Dougie Hamilton, is Strome’s teammate and good friend from the Niagra IceDogs.
“I haven’t made any bets with him,” Strome said of Hamilton. “We’ll see what happens. I’ll text him tonight and see what he says.”
Whether a bet transpires or not, Strome said he’s looking forward to playing against another team’s future talent.
“It will be a lot of fun to compare yourself and play against some other good talent but also earn your spot in the next camp,” Strome said.