Monday, January 28, 2013

The Future Of Nino Niederreiter

Swiss born hockey player Nino Niederreiter was drafted 5th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2010 draft after scoring 60 PTS in 65 GP in Portland of the WHL. Since being drafted he has played 47 AHL games and scored 40 PTS, and has played 64 NHL games and scored 3 PTS. When the NHL lockout ended, Nino was not even invited to Islanders training camp, left instead to play in the AHL where he is producing at nearly a point per game. He is upset that he was not given an opportunity to make the team and has requested a trade. There should still be a decent market for Nino, at 20 years old and 2 years removed from being a top draft pick (think Patrick White).

Looking at the historical list of forwards who have produced similarly terrible offensive numbers in their first NHL season, the number who have gone on to great careers is slim. Of the 11 most comparable players, only 5 had fewer than 100 penalty minutes (Nino has 20).  Joe Thornton scored 8 points in his first 55 GP, Alex Svitov scored 8 PTS in 63 GP, Steve Kelly scored 6 PTS in his first 21 GP, Chris Wells scored 6 PTS in his first 54, and Jason Bowen had 7 PTS in his first 63. Niederreiter was worse than all of these players, with Thornton being the only one to go on to a successful career. If you assume that Nino is no Joe (which is probably a safe bet), then you're likely looking at an 85%+ probability that Nino will play under 200 NHL GP in his entire career. 

Most of the players with comparable offensive production who went on to decent NHL careers were the tough guys, and Nino had worse offense than most of those tough guys (like Sandy McCarthy, Jordin Tootoo, Matt Johnson, Scott Parker, Gordie Dwyer). Nino is not a tough guy. He's supposed to be a goal scorer. 1 goal, 0 assists in 55 games while playing over 10 minutes per game is nothing short of atrocious. The smart move for the Islanders is to get the most they can for him right now (think Patrick White), if they can get anything at all. The older he gets without breaking through, the lower his value will drop. He's a tiny long shot at being successful, so there is justification for mild enthusiasm if your team acquires the guy; but until I see it happen, I'll have trouble believing it's going to happen. He was historically bad last year. Most guys projected as goal scorers will fail when they suck as bad as Nino sucked over a similar number of games.

He's having a good year in the AHL, but so did Steve Kelly (who was a relative nobody by his 22nd birthday). Joe Thornton never played a game in the AHL. Blame Keenan for his 8 PTS as a rookie and assume he's far better than Nino will ever be.

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