Junior hockey: Time with Islanders inspires Niederreiter
Friday, November 5, 2010
Last week Nino Niederreiter was, in his own words, living the life.
Playing for the New York Islanders. Living out of a hotel. Competing at hockey's highest level in one of the world's great cities.
So, excuse the 18-year-old from Switzerland if it's a bit of a comedown to be back with the Portland Winterhawks.
"I was living the life there," Niederreiter said this week. "Back at junior, I have a curfew and everything like that. So it's way different."
Niederreiter, the No. 5 pick in the NHL Draft by the Islanders, played in nine games for New York. He had one goal and one assist.
In two games with the Winterhawks last weekend, he scored one goal. His return bolsters a Portland team that has a Western Hockey League-best record (12-2-0-1). The Winterhawks host Red Deer (11-6) today, then Everett (5-4-1-3) on Saturday. Both games start at 7 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum.
The Winterhawks then hit the long road, visiting the six East Division teams.
That bus trip will be much different than the travel and treatment Niederreiter experienced in the NHL. But he said he is not surprised, or discouraged, by his return to junior hockey.
Because the first year of NHL contracts kick in when a rookie plays in his 10th game, it was not a big surprise when Niederreiter was returned to the Winterhawks after playing in nine games. Because the Islanders had several forwards returning from injury, it seemed unlikely Niederreiter would get enough playing time in New York.
Niederreiter said he understands the decision. As a goal scorer, he wouldn't benefit from limited playing time on a third or fourth line with the Islanders.
"I was in a tough situation. I knew that I was going to be back here, probably. At the end, they told me I have to score as much as I can this year. Have a great year here, and next year move forward."
One nice aspect about returning to juniors, Niederreiter said, is the comfort level that comes from playing with friends.
"It's always great to be back with guys who are your own age," he said. "In the NHL, you have guys who are married, who are double your age. Doug Weight is almost 39, way older than I am, way more experienced.
"I could learn a lot from them, but now I'm back with the boys and having a good time here.">>