If they haven't already, the coaches of the Portland Winterhawks might want to eliminate NIEDDEREITER from the season-opening forward lines on their dry-erase board. At least for the month of October. Almost certainly, Nino Niederreiter is going to be in New York for a while.
In a conversation after the first day of rookie camp, Scott Gordon left the door wide open for the Islanders' 2010 first pick to make the big club at the age of 18.
"If you look at our history, we have given our top draft picks a chance as teenagers," Gordon told Point Blank. "Josh (Bailey) had the opportunity because of some injuries we had at the time. He made the most of it when we looked at him for those nine games (before a year would come off his Entry Level contract). John Tavares making our club last year wasn't a surprise to anyone. He earned it. Nino is going to get the same chance."
The Islanders' third-year coach detailed why the 6-3 left wing from Switzerland is quite possibly in a better position to succeed at the NHL level than even his skilled first pick predecessors.
"Nino has a few things going for him," said Gordon. "He has God-given ability and he's a better skater than Josh and John were at this stage. He also has the big body, so he won't have any problems physically. No one is going to expect him to be as prolific offensively as John out of the gate. We won't put that pressure on him. We just believe that, whether it's now or in the near future, Nino has a lot to give."
In the end, whether Niederreiter makes the 2010-11 Islanders will come down to a pair of factors. Here are two direct quotes from the head coach:
- "We have to measure his ability to contribute in all three zones against the highest level of competition."
- "For us to keep him here this season, Nino has to be more than a fourth-liner for us."
Niederreiter said today that he arrived on Long Island a month early to prepare himself to be at his best and make the team. "I love Portland," he told Point Blank. "The team and the fans were very good to me. But right now, all of my determination is on staying with the Islanders this season."
POINT BLANK TAKE: Niederreiter just turned 18 years old last week. With the Islanders playing five preseason games in three nights (two are split-squad), Niederreiter only has three games to prove himself. As a witness to dozens of rookie games like the ones scheduled his week in Boston, I can tell you they are overrated as barometers for top prospects.
Since management won't have enough time to properly evaluate Niederreiter, he'll be here for at least the first nine games of the NHL regular season. By then, they'll be able to look at his production and how much icetime he deserves before deciding whether he should return to Portland.
Notes: As I posted on Twitter around 1:30, the Kirill Petrov saga is not over. According to a source, the Islanders and Petrov's representatives are still trying to get the talented 2008 third round pick out of his KHL contract and into NYI training camp. The Islanders do not want the 20-year-old playing eight minutes a game - if he's lucky - with Ak Bars. Give this one more week for the Islanders to kidnap him find a solution.
As first reported by Kevin Allen of USA Today, the Islanders informed agents last month that experienced NHLers were welcome in Nassau on a tryout basis. As of now, there may not be any takers.
One player you should be able to cross off the potential tryout list: Miroslav Satan. Looks like the former Islanders winger is getting an NHL contract somewhere.
Should have mentioned this in the first post of the day. Like Matt Martin, Jesse Joensuu is skating with the NHL guys. This is his third full season in North America, so the big Finn isn't skating with the rookies anymore.
Islanders rookie camp continues on Tuesday at Iceworks. The rooks will have their morning skate on Wednesday in Syosset before getting on the bus to Boston for the two rookie games that night and Thursday.
So nice to be back at the rink today, see some very good friends and re-connect with the incredibly loyal Point Blank readers. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do this for a third season.