Niederreiter has talent to make Wild roster, but no guarantee

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2013 - 6:25 AM

Nino Niederreiter, acquired in the Cal Clutterbuck trade, has plenty of talent — and competition for a Wild spot.

view larger photos

  

 

Mike Johnston didn’t want to waste a pick in the Canadian Hockey League import draft if Nino Niederreiter wasn’t serious. Playing major juniors had not been a traditional move for Swiss hockey players.

“I phoned Nino and said, ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do? You want to come to North America at 17 years old?’ ” Johnston, the coach and general manager of the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks, said. “He said, ‘I want to be a pro hockey player and I know I have to move away to make that step.’

“Nino was focused and knew exactly what he wanted to do.”

Niederreiter led Portland with 36 goals that first season and was taken fifth overall by the New York Islanders in the 2010 NHL draft.

Three years later, Niederreiter is 21 and now a member of the Wild. The highest-drafted Swiss player ever was acquired for Cal Clutterbuck and a draft pick in June after things soured on Long Island and Niederreiter asked to be traded.

“El Niño” is one of a handful of promising Wild youngsters vying for a roster spot. That includes two other 2010 first-round picks, Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, and 2010 second-round pick Jason Zucker.

The Wild believes Niederreiter has all the makings of a power winger. He’s 6-2, skilled and can skate. And coach Mike Yeo calls his shot “silly hard.”

“He just screams NHL player,” Yeo said of Niederreiter, who scored a goal, had three shots and “was probably our best forward” during a 3-1 loss Tuesday night in Minnesota’s preseason opener against Columbus.

The Islanders kept Niederreiter for nine games in 2010 before returning him to Portland. He led the Winterhawks with 41 goals and scored an additional nine in the playoffs to help Portland to the WHL Final, where it lost to Edmonton.

The next season, the Islanders kept Niederreiter as a 19-year-old. He was signed to an entry-level contract with an inflated $2.795 million salary cap hit, of which $425,000 are the usually achievable ‘A’ bonuses and $1.5 million are the usually unachievable ‘B’ bonuses.

The sense is the Islanders did so because they needed to get to the salary-cap floor. The move actually led to a collective bargaining agreement rule change; teams now must get there with real dollars, not phantom bonuses.

Niederreiter played 55 of 82 games, mostly on the fourth line. He scored one goal.

“You don’t become the fifth overall pick by accident,” said former NHL general manager Craig Button, a TSN and NHL Network analyst. “But Nino is the classic case of being put in a position that wasn’t ideal for his development. If he went back to Portland, he could have been a front-line player on a potential championship team. Scoring one goal in 55 games at age 19 in the NHL doesn’t help your confidence.”

Niederreiter’s agent requested a trade. When the 2012-13 lockout ended, Niederreiter wasn’t even invited to the Islanders’ training camp despite a season in Bridgeport where he finished 10th in the American Hockey League with 28 goals.

“At that point, I was fourth in the league in scoring, I think, and I just never got a call. I got frustrated,” said Niederreiter, who is from the small town of Chur in the Swiss Alps. “Still, I learned a lot the year before. I learned how to be a pro and how the lifestyle is in the NHL.

“Still, it probably was the right step for me to get a new fresh start here.”

Niederreiter, who trains and power-skates in Portland every August, led Switzerland to a historic silver medal at this year’s world championships with eight points in 10 games. He’ll represent the Swiss in February’s Winter Olympics, which he calls “a dream come true.”

“He is top-notch, top-shelf as far as character and attitude,” Johnston said. “His teammates will love him. He always has a smile on his face, he’s always upbeat, he’s got energy, loves to play the game, loves to practice his game.”

Niederreiter’s goal is to make the Wild out of camp, but GM Chuck Fletcher has told him there are no promises and he could end up in Iowa of the AHL to start.

Niederreiter’s training camp stall has been in the minor league locker room. He, Granlund and Zucker — not Coyle — are in the “In the System” section of the media guide.

“The kids have to earn it,” Fletcher said. “Don’t assume an 82-game free ride. We’ve got to assume they’ll all play games, but whether they play 10 or 82 is up to them. We’re just trying to win.”

  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Columbus 3, Wild 1

    Tuesday September 17, 2013

    Preseason action from Xcel Energy Center, Tuesday, Sept.17.

  • Hybrid icing gets test in Wild's preseason loss to Columbus

    Wednesday September 18, 2013

    This preseason, the league is experimenting with hybrid icing — the linesman blows the play dead if he feels the defending player will win the race by the end zone...

  • Postgame: Wild lose 3-1; Zucker leaves game with groin injury

    Tuesday September 17, 2013

    Coach Mike Yeo felt the Wild was still in "scrimmage mode" against the Blue Jackets

  • The Wild’s Nino Niederreiter (22) battled control of the puck after being checked by Columbus defenseman Blake Parlett (50) during Tuesday’s preseason opener. Niederreiter scored a second-period goal.

  • Minnesota right winger Nino Niederreiter scored a second-period power-play goal in the Wild’s 3-1 exhibition loss to Columbus on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center. Niederreiter is intent on making the Wild out of camp, and coach Mike Yeo called him the team’s best forward in Tuesday’s game.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Oakland - LP: D. Otero 8 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 9
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 5 FINAL
Boston 3
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Dallas 1
Colorado 0 FINAL
Calgary 2
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
San Jose 1
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close