The grass isn’t always greener elsewhere when a player asks to be traded, but things have worked out quite well for the Wild’s Nino Niederreiter.
In his fourth season with Minnesota since asking the Islanders, the team that drafted him fifth overall in 2010, to deal him, Niederreiter has become one of the Wild’s most important forwards.
“He’s one of our bigger forwards, and we don’t have a lot of them,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When he’s playing physical, and he’s winning the wall battles, which are so important in hockey, then it makes us a better team. And he’s done that pretty consistently most of the year.”
Niederreiter, 24, still has a soft spot for the Islanders, whom the Wild hosted Thursday night, because “you always remember the team that drafted you and you played your first NHL game with,” but “at the end of the day, I’m happy where I am right now.”
Traded for Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick, Niederreiter has scored 67 goals and 139 points in 278 regular-season games for the Wild and another eight goals and 17 points in 29 playoff games, including the Game 7 overtime goal against Colorado that advanced the Wild into the second round in 2014.
“It’s definitely something I want to get even better at it,” said Niederreiter, a restricted free agent this summer. “I still have a long ways to go to be a better player, and that’s the main goal.”
Clutterbuck, a fourth-liner who recently signed a five-year, $17.5 million extension, has scored 37 goals and 71 points in 260 games for the Islanders.
Advanced stats-wise, Niederreiter has been the far superior player.
In four seasons, and before Thursday’s game, Niederreiter has a 52.75 corsi-for percentage, a 58.2 goals-for percentage and his lines have 100 more scoring chances than the Wild’s opponent when he’s on the ice. At 5-on-5, the Wild has 221 more shots on goal than its opponents when Niederreiter’s on the ice.
Clutterbuck has a 49.24 corsi-for percentage, a 46.99 goals-for percentage and his lines have 14 fewer scoring chances than the Islanders’ opponent when he’s on the ice. At 5-on-5, the Islanders have 53 more shots on goal than their opponents when Clutterbuck’s on the ice.
“We are complete different players,” Niederreiter said. “He plays a different kind of game, so it’s tough to compare.”
Niederreiter, who has four goals and four assists in eight games against his old team, is thrilled Wild fans, who loved Clutterbuck, also have embraced him.
“It’s a great [state] for hockey,” Niederreiter said.
Zach Parise’s eyes light up when he faces the Islanders. His 20 goals and 45 points in 49 meetings are his highest totals vs. any opponent.
“You have those teams where, it’s stupid, but mentally you just know — knock on wood — you’re going to have a good game,” Parise said. “For me, I think these guys have been one of those teams.”
Islanders fans, who loved rooting for Parise’s late father, J.P. Parise, have long been ticked the Isles didn’t draft Parise in 2003. Parise went 17th to the Devils, two spots after New York took Robert Nilsson.
“People made a big deal about them passing over me in the draft. I never really cared, but it was always special for me playing at Nassau Coliseum because of my dad’s history,” Parise said.
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jared Spurgeon is one of four NHL defensemen to have at least one game-winning goal each year since 2010-11. The others are stars Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber and Kris Letang.
• Kurtis Gabriel, who had one assist and 24 penalty minutes in 10 games, was reassigned to Iowa. Nate Prosser was scratched for a second consecutive game.