The basement-dwelling New York Islanders are once again preparing to be sellers at the deadline (we hope). As I look backward and forward at our prospect pool, considering who I’d like to see stay and who I wouldn’t mind shipping out in trade, I can’t help but think about the one that got away.
Taken 5th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, Nino Niederreiter occupied the unenviable position of “Islanders first round pick the year after they took John Tavares”.
At the time, a lot of Islanders country was hoping the team would select Erik Gudbranson so we would have a young defenseman to go with our stud forward. There were quite a few ‘meh’ feelings after we ended up with the young swiss forward.
Those ‘meh’ feelings gave way to anticipation when it was revealed that in the 2011-12 season he was going to be up for the full season. Unfortunately for the Islanders, and maybe fortunately for El Nino, his would be the first of several prospects to be tossed around under the team’s development style.
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Playing most of his time with the big club between the dynamic duo of Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo, the Islanders had a hard time figuring out why Nino would do well in juniors and the AHL, but not in the NHL.
After wallowing with the Sound Tigers for a year, Nino’s agent finally made the demand for a trade. Nino got his wish when the Garth Snow shipped him to Minnesota for Cal Clutterbuck in June of 2013.
Since his escape from the island, Nino has slowly become the power forward the Islanders expected him to be before they mishandled him.
He was third on the Wild in goals during the 2015-16 season. This season he is third on the team in goals and fourth on the team in points.
Nino’s offensive production has increased every season with Minnesota and he is currently on pace for a 50 point season. He has out-produced most, if not all the Islanders prospects he left behind to be benched for no perceivable reason and lined up next to new people every night.
All this is enough to make one wonder what he would have looked like next to John Tavares. It is also enough to make you wonder at the odd handling of guys like Ryan Strome and Anthony Beauvillier.
I’m not saying that Nino Niederreiter is the perfect wing, but he would be an upgrade over what we currently have. I can only hope that Isles ownership, over the course of the rest of this season and the upcoming off season, can figure out a better way to prepare, develop, and handle their prospects.