EL NINO HEADING WESTWith eye on future, Niederreiter sent back to WHL

CB’s FanHouse Column: Lose the Shootout, but not the CHL 9-Game Clause. Plus, the NHL’s 7 best goaltenders

FanHouse: Niederreiter back to juniors

11:45 am, NVMC: Continuing their run of smart hockey decisions for the present and future, the Islanders have returned Nino Niederreiter to the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.


The Niederreiter case was a different one for the Islanders. Here is an 18-year-old hockey player from Switzerland with just one full year of icetime in North America under his belt. Unlike many top draft picks – Niederreiter was drafted fifth overall in June – the wing still has plenty to learn in the Western Hockey League.


In 65 games with the Winterhawks last season, the 6-2 Niederreiter had 60 points (36 goals and 24 assists). He was outstanding, not dominant. Now he can go back to Portland, where fourth overall pick Ryan Johansen has already returned, and try to be dominant. The Winterhawks can also challenge for a WHL and Memorial Cup title.


The move also makes a ton of sense for the 2010-11 Islanders. This is not the Josh Bailey decision of 2008, with a wafer-thin lineup, especially when it comes to potential top-nine forwards. Rob Schremp and Kyle Okposo are eventually coming back, likely limiting Niederreiter’s icetime.


Then there is the reality. For all his admirable size, strength, skating ability and maturity, Niederreiter often looked – understandably – like a player who had just turned 18 years old. In his nine games he had his positive moments, to be sure. In the final analysis, he had one goal, one assist and just 13 shots on goal while averaging over 13 minutes.


Niederreiter will be better in the long run, and so will the Islanders – who, once again, are doing the right thing for the development of their top young talent.


Comments? More to come.