Will El Nino Strike The Island?
We all know that an earthquake in Virginia was felt throughout Long Island and upwards into Canada yesterday, but the question that is looming on most minds of Islanders fans is if Nino Niederreiter will be cracking the line-up this season.
El Nino, (which is Spanish for, "the Nino"), is a 6'2, 203 pound left winger that is coming off a spectacular year with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. After a 60 point season in 2010, Niederreiter tallied 41 goals and 29 assists for 70 points in 55 games played this year; a 10 point improvement in 10 fewer games played. He also captained Team Switzerland in this year's World Junior Championships and was second on the team in playoff scoring for the Winterhawks, tallying 27 points in 21 games played.
Niederreiter also saw some NHL action before he was sent back to the WHL, dressing for nine games at the start of the 2010-2011 year. He managed to record one goal and one assist before the organization decided it was best for him to have another year of development in Junior under his belt.
I interviewed Niederreiter back at the start of April as he was preparing for his team's match-up with the Kelowna Rockets in the playoffs. We discussed his taste of the NHL, his outstanding year with the Winterhawks and the expectations he has set for himself.
The Islanders may be a little reluctant to rush Niederreiter into a permanent orange and blue sweater, but other signs indicate that the organization is ready for the Swiss sniper to take the next step.
In a recent interview with the New York Post, Brett Cyrgalis reported that General Manager Garth Snow doesn't plan on adding anymore veterans to the line-up outside of Marty Reasoner and Brian Rolston.
"Right now, I don't have any plans to add another forward to our group, Snow told The Post. "As much as we'd like to add quality veterans, we're not going to box out our young guys."
So in case any of you were wondering, that rules out Alexei Yashin. (Cue collective sigh of relief).
"We want to give a guy like Nino a chance to make our team," Snow said.
So there you have it. After all, Niederreiter almost seems to have nothing left to prove at the Junior level. But in order for him to make the team, Niederreiter is going to have to display the ability to contribute consistently and show the capability of handling top-six minutes. The Islanders scouts envision El Nino becoming a top-line scoring threat, so there is no reason to believe that he will be playing on the bottom two lines.
My hunch? Nino Niederreiter is part of your opening night roster.
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