The Islanders announced Tuesday afternoon that they signed Nino Niederreiter to a three-year entry-level contract during their press conference with Islanders owner Charles Wang, Head Coach Scott Gordon and General Manager Garth Snow.
“It’s just fantastic to be a part of the Islanders and even now that I’ve signed here, it’s just unbelievable,” Niederreiter said during the press conference.
The Islanders selected Niederreiter with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft after completing his rookie season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. While in Portland, Niederreiter played in 65 regular season games, leading the team in goals with 36. He also registered 24 assists for a total of 60 points. In the playoffs, the rookie centerman earned more than a point-per-game when he tallied 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) in 13 games.
According to the Isles GM, Niederreiter will continue working with the Islanders through the remainder of the 2010 Training Camp, hoping to demonstrate his ability to play at the professional level.
“All he’s got to focus on is playing his game and playing well,” Snow said. “He played extremely well last week in Boston, the rookie games. He’s obviously a big body, that’s something that he has in his favor going in to training camp and his skill set (is also very high).”
The 18-year-old rookie scored the first goal of the 5-2 loss in Boston on Wednesday, September 15 and stood up for his teammate David Ullstrom, entering into the first fight of his hockey career. Even though the rookie dropped the gloves, he is extremely well mannered and has been quite calm under pressure these past few weeks through mini camp, rookie camp and now training camp.
As of right now, the Chur, Switzerland native is unsure where he will play the 2010-11 season.
“I have to show a lot,” Niederreiter said about continuing to be a part of the Islanders Training Camp these next few weeks. “It’s a young team, it’s a big battle out there and everybody can’t make the team. So I know that a spot is open and I’d love to use the spot. At the end, it’s just a coaches’ decision and even the General Manager’s.”
Right now, Niederreiter has been looking good and Coach Scott Gordon hasn’t made any decisions as to where the rookie will play this season. In the next few weeks, Gordon and the rest of the coaching staff will watch him closely to see if he will be able to withstand the grind of playing in the NHL.
“The biggest thing for us is how is (Nino) going to adapt to playing against men versus playing against a 16, 17-year-old,” Gordon said. “I forget he’s 18, but you take for granted successful junior careers when you get drafted and you go play pro right away. We look at Josh (Bailey) and we look at John (Tavares and those were both) different situations. And Nino’s situation will probably be different too.”
“But at the end of the day, how is he going to compete against men? That is an adjustment for anybody, but certainly when you’re 6’1”, 200, that’s going to be a big advantage,” Gordon continued. “Hopefully it will play out and work for everybody.”
Nino is understandably very excited about his news, so his next step after leaving the press conference would be to call his parents to give them the good news.
“No (I haven’t spoken to my parents), not at all actually,” Niederreiter said. “I signed maybe an hour, hour-and-a-half ago and I tried not to tell anybody so now everybody knows I guess and I can call my parents and tell them about it.”
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)