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Niederreiter, Nelson get taste of Island life

by Brian Compton /
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A pair of first-round picks were checking out their new digs for the first time on Wednesday.

With the New York Islanders opening their annual prospect camp at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, forwards Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson took the ice and did their best to show Garth Snow, Charles Wang and the rest of the organization that they were worthy of being selected fifth and 30th respectively at the 2010 Entry Draft.

"I couldn't sleep that well (Tuesday night)," said Niederreiter, who is still adjusting to the time change after recently arriving from his native Switzerland. "(But) it was a good practice. I thought I did well today. The first practice is always tough, but in the end that's what makes us stronger."

Niederreiter showed how strong he was at this year's World Junior Championships, when he led the Swiss on a surprising run to the bronze medal game.

Niederreiter made the all-tournament team as he tallied 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists) in seven games.

"I like his size, I like his skating ability, his nose around the net," Isles coach Scott Gordon said. "On the first day, I don't want to go over the top with it, but we're excited that we drafted him and we're still excited about him."

Niederreiter is excited to be on Long Island, which is home to one of the best players to ever come out of Switzerland. Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, who had 11 goals and 39 assists for the club last season, had lunch with Niederreiter in their native country last week.

"He said, 'Just enjoy the week and have fun up there,'" Niederreiter said. "For me, it's great to have another guy who speaks the same language. For confidence, it's actually great to have him here."

Considering Niederreiter doesn't turn 18 until just before the start of training camp (Sept. 8), there's obviously a good chance the 6-foot-2, 201-pounder will be sent back to junior hockey for a second season. That would be fine with Niederreiter, who had a team-leading 36 goals for the Portland Winterhawks in 2009-10, his first season in North America.

"Of course," Niederreiter said. "I'm in a great situation. I can go back to Portland. They have great coaches and they have a great coach here, so I can learn a lot on both sides."

On the other hand, having an 18-year-old on the NHL roster would be nothing new to the Islanders. In 2008, Josh Bailey went right from being drafted in June to making his NHL debut in October and has been with the club ever since. Last year, John Tavares scored 24 goals for the Isles after being selected first overall at the draft. Tavares was 18 at the start of camp.

So why not Nino?

"We'll let him make the determination," Gordon said. "We'll see how he does in exhibition and how he does throughout this camp and (training) camp. That'll be easier to figure out once we get to that point."

Niederreiter's not taking any chances. The power forward intends on using the next two months to prove to the Islanders that he will be a top-six for years to come. At least, that was his response when asked what he wants to show Islanders' brass this week.

"That I was a good choice that they picked me at No. 5," he said. "I kind of get a feel of how to live up here. I think it's going to be great. I'm ready to do something special. One day, we're going to be a powerful Stanley Cup team."
"I like his size, I like his skating ability, his nose around the net.  On the first day, I don't want to go over the top with it, but we're excited that we drafted him and we're still excited about him." -- Isles' coach Scott Gordon on Nino Niederreiter

Nelson's immediate future has already been determined. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound center will attend the University of North Dakota this fall, where he'll try to help the Fighting Sioux win a national championship. Nelson had 39 goals and 34 assists in just 25 games for Warroad (Minn.) H.S. last season, which prompted the Islanders to trade their two second-round picks to the Chicago Blackhawks in order to move into the first round to grab him.

"After the first couple of minutes, you kind of settle down," Nelson said when asked if he was nervous on Wednesday morning. "(I just want to) show that I'm able to play and that I'll be ready in a few years and I'll develop and contribute to the team."

The Isles surrounded Nelson with talent during the morning skate, as he was placed between Russian forwards Kirill Petrov and Kirill Kabanov. Both possess an impressive skill set.

"They're great players," Nelson said of Petrov and Kabanov. "It was kind of funny to be in between them and hearing them speak Russian to each other. I don't really know what they're saying."

Gordon was impressed with Nelson's ability and feels the best is yet to come for the nephew of Dave Christian, who was a member of the "Miracle On Ice" squad in 1980.

"Another big body who can skate," Gordon said of Nelson. "Give him another two or three years and the size he's going to put on, he's going to be a pretty big body. I don't think he's even touched the tip of the iceberg with his ability."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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