El Nino's Next Stop: Should Niederreiter Start 2013 In The NHL or AHL?
Nino Niederreiter came into the NHL last season with a lot of high hopes and expectations. From a stats stand point, it's safe to say that he fell very short of the mark for anyone's standards.
In 55 games, the 19 year old winger scored one goal along with a -29 rating and 12 penalty minutes after spending basically the entire season on the fourth line. His line-mates for the majority of the year were Jay Pandolfo ,Tim Wallace (prior to being claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning) or Micheal Haley as well as other various candidates that were dressed depending on that game's line-up.
It's safe to say that he wasn't playing with the most offensively capable skaters, and he had to do so in limited ice time as well. (Photo Credit: MVerminski/Flickr)
Again, this is not the type of year you want for one of your top prospect's rookie season. However, many have felt that Niederreiter was rushed into the NHL despite having spent a year in Junior after being drafted.
Garth Snow was even quoted saying that the best case scenario would have had Niederreiter start 2012 in Bridgeport. But that was not allowed due to the current CBA. He'll have that chance next year as he will be old enough to play in the AHL.
Which brings up the question: where will Niederreiter play in 2013?
Garth Snow felt that it would be more beneficial for Niederreiter, a developing sniper that was taken fifth overall in his draft class, to play at the NHL level even in the smallest role rather than continue to dominate a league that he had clearly surpassed.
The fourth line role likely taught him to play physical and helped him adjust to the speed of the NHL game while getting accustomed to NHL players.
But it's time for El Nino to get his scoring touch back.
Although it has not been pre-determined by anyone from the Isles coaching staff, it seems that a year in Bridgeport would be very beneficial for a player like Niederreiter. There he can learn to apply his NHL knowledge to the AHL, which should hopefully allow him to flourish on one of the top two lines of the Sound Tigers line-up.
Once he has combined his skill and hockey sense, Niederreiter should (hopefully) be capable of playing on one of the top two lines for the New York Islanders.
That is, of course, unless Snow thinks another year on one of the bottom two lines would serve him best. But, as a hockey player myself, I can assure anyone that confidence means everything. Starting off the season in the minor leagues would hopefully allow him to play at his most capable level.
The expectations are still high for Niederreiter. Next year will be a vital step to seeing him get a little bit closer to reaching them.