Niederreiter - Leading The Sound Tigers
With few NHL stories to tell, The Hockey News (THN) magazine published a November 5 edition dedicated to the American Hockey League (AHL). Featured on the cover and predicted to win the Calder Cup are the Oklahoma City Barons, an obvious choice of any follower of the AHL.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (RNH), Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Taylor Hall have joined (Milford, CT’s own) Mark Arcobella and the rest of the talent-laden Barons’ team that made it to last years’ Western Conference finals. Clearly the best team on paper, it is merely a matter of playing out the season (as the Toronto Blue Jays must) before their anointment as champions.
Schultz and Eberle currently lead the AHL points race with 21 and 19 respectively while RNH is in a six-player tie for third with 17 points scored. Also in that tie for third most points this season is Bridgeports’ Nino Niederreiter.
Since the season began I have watched intently to see if I could discern the difference in the level of skill that separates the NHL ready player from one needing further development. I talked to Calvin deHaan and Casey Cizikas about this admitting I could see no difference and they agreed there is none.
More often than not it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. This is what separates Nino and other top prospects from the bunch, positioning and being where the puck will be before it arrives ready to send it home. (Photo at the top of this post shows Nino in perfect position to score – Photo credit: Pope Steve XXVIII).
This same edition of THN predicts the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (BST) will make the Eastern Conference playoffs as the eighth seed, finishing behind the Springfield Falcons and the Connecticut Whale in the division the Tigers won last season. While admitting that ‘the influx of NHL talent made (their) crystal ball cloudy’ when making their predictions, the author(s) also failed to list Matt Donovan (the AHL’s 2011-12’s top scoring rookie defenseman) as a member of the Bridgeport team.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are off to their best start since the 2008-09 season and while some of this early season success can be attributed to the ‘influx of NHL talent’ that every team is enjoying, there are other subtle benefits that this current NHL forced lockout has provided and the Sound Tigers are taking full advantage.
Each year the BST roster changes about forty percent with a select few moving up in the Islanders organization and most pursuing their careers elsewhere. In a typical year it takes time for lines to be developed and the all-important line-chemistry to be established.
With no late summer NHL training camp, preseason ice belonged to the Sound Tigers. Rather than trying to evaluate a rink full of players vying for NHL/AHL roster spots, the coaches were allowed valuable time evaluating players and trying different line combinations, the end result is that all four lines are contributing; fourteen games into the season and twenty-two different players have posted either a goal or an assist.
THN was probably correct in the crowning of the Barons’ as the Western Division Champions. But let’s hope that leaving Matt Donovan off the Sound Tigers roster was a mistake that bites back and Donovan, who still holds the keys to Oklahoma City, brings the Tigers to the Cox Convention Center for a Calder Cup Championship game. (Photo Pope Steve XXVII)
Follow me, @hockeyflan on Twitter and make sure to “like” The Checkingline-Isles edition on Facebook as well as on Twitter @TCLIsles to stay up to the minute with all the latest Islanders news and notes.