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World Cup

Niederreiter has eyes on World Cup stage

Swiss forward with history of big goals Team Europe candidate

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

For most of his hockey life, Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter has delivered in the clutch while playing a big role in the unexpected. 

He scored 36 goals as a rookie for Portland of the Western Hockey League in 2009-10 to help the Winterhawks improve by 48 points and make a run to the Western Conference semifinals. He scored the game-tying goal with 33 seconds left in the third period and the game winner in overtime when his native Switzerland stunned Russia in the quarterfinals of the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship. He played for the Swiss team that won a silver medal at the 2013 IIHF World Championship; its first medal since winning bronze in 1953.

And in what many consider the highlight of his career, Niederreiter scored twice, including in overtime, in Game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference First Round when the Wild eliminated the Central Division champion Colorado Avalanche.

Niederreiter would love a chance to do the same for Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. A collection of players from countries including Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Germany and Denmark, Team Europe will play in Group A with Team Canada, Team Czech Republic and Team USA at Air Canada Centre in Toronto beginning Sept. 17. 

General manager Miroslav Satan, charged with the selection of Team Europe's roster, was at Barclays Center for the Wild's game against the New York Islanders on Feb. 2. Niederreiter, 23, had a goal, assist and eight shots on goal in Minnesota's 5-3 loss, and left hoping he made an impression.

"I haven't talked to any of the coaching staff or the GM staff, but I know they've seen a few games from us and it would be great to be a part of it," Niederreiter said.

Video: MIN@NYI: Niederreiter nets rebound to trim deficit

Five of Niederreiter's countrymen could also play for Team Europe: Three-time Olympic defensemen Mark Streit (Philadelphia Flyers), Roman Josi (Nashville Predators) and Luca Sbisa (Vancouver Canucks), and goalies Reto Berra (Colorado Avalanche) and Jonas Hiller (Calgary Flames). Niederreiter could also ride shotgun on a line centered by Anze Kopitar (Slovenia, Los Angeles Kings), Leon Draisaitl (Germany, Edmonton Oilers), Lars Eller (Denmark, Montreal Canadiens) or Zemgus Girgensons (Latvia, Buffalo Sabres).

"They're all great centermen," Niederreiter said. "Looking around the potential players who can be on that team, I feel like it's going to be a really strong group of guys. That's something to look forward to. I hope I can be a part of it, and it would be a lot of fun to play with one of those centermen and getting to know each other even better. Obviously I've played against them quite a lot."

Selected by the Islanders with the fifth pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, Niederreiter scored two goals in 64 games in New York before he was traded to Minnesota for forward Cal Clutterbuck and a draft pick on June 30, 2013. Niederreiter has 47 goals and 97 points in 215 games with the Wild and twice made the Swiss cover of EA Sports' NHL video game, a fitting tribute for a national hero who sparked Switzerland's 2010 win against Russia without Josi (broken finger) and Sbisa (hip flexor).

"That whole tournament, especially for myself, worked out really well," Niederreiter said. "We still had a chance to move on and we took a step in the direction we wanted to be. The biggest thing was in World Juniors we always lost pretty high against Sweden or Canada, but that tournament showed ourselves that there is something possible to do something in those tournaments."

Sixteen members of each World Cup roster will be announced March 1, with the balance of the respective rosters named no later than June 1. Until then, Niederreiter will watch, wait and hope his track record is enough to convince Satan and his group he's a right fit for Team Europe.

"It's definitely a goal of mine to be able to play there," Niederreiter said. "But obviously there's a lot of great players which are potentially [in the mix]. I'm working hard to be a part of it and it would be great to have a chance to play for Team Europe."

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