As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is Nino “Knightrider”.
During the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Wild traded Cal Clutterbuck and a 2nd round pick to the NY Islanders for Nino Niederreiter, the 5th overall pick in the 2010 draft. The former top prospect had a rocky relationship with the Islanders organisation, spending his first full season on the 4th line, and then not getting invited to training camp in 2013, leading to his agent requesting he be traded.
Niederreiter has 64 NHL games under his belt and is still only 21. He is a raw talent that has been largely mis-handled by the looks of things. According to EliteProspects.com:
A winger with excellent creativity. Protects the puck well and has soft hands. A good finisher who plays with high energy and intensity.
The trade was an exciting one for the Wild, with another top young player joining an already impressive group. Cal Cluttebuck was a useful defensive forward, but overall is no big loss. He spent time bouncing between the 3rd and 4th line last year, so losing him won’t exactly gut the team.
-Here are Niederreiter’s career “boxcar” stats:
|New York Islanders||NHL||9||1||1||2|
|New York Islanders||NHL||55||1||0||1|
|Bridgeport Sound Tigers||AHL||6||3||1||4|
|Bridgeport Sound Tigers||AHL||74||28||22||50|
To give some context, he was given a 9-game stint with the Islanders before returning to Portland where he had a career year. He then spent most of the following season in the NHL playing on the 4th line, before spending all of 2013 in the AHL.
-Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year, which he spent entirely with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers:
BASIC STATS (AHL)
|+/- (Yes, there aren’t many stats available for AHL)||-5|
There isn’t a whole lot worth reading into there as those numbers are pretty limited and are from the AHL. But it is good to see that after a rough spell in Long Island the previous year, Nino was able to score some goals in the AHL and seemingly be a key player for Bridgeport.
Instead of focusing on last year, I’m going to analyse 2011-2012, the year that he spent mostly in the NHL to see if I can find out anything interesting in the numbers.
-Here are some of his regular season numbers from 11-12:
|SHOOTING %/SHOTS ATTEMPTED||1.4%/74|
Right off the cuff, the big red flag that I see there is his shooting percentage which was a staggeringly low 1.4%. That’s some crazy bad luck the kid has in his 1st proper season. Other than that, there isn’t much else to say. It’s good to see that at least the Islanders gave him some PP chances to try and ease him in, even if they royally screwed-up by having him on the 4th line.
-Here are some more in-depth numbers from that season:
UNDERLYING NUMBERS (2011-2012)
|OFFENSIVE ZONE START %||46.0%|
|OFFENSIVE ZONE FINISH %||49.3%|
|QUALITY OF COMPETITION||-0.726|
|SHOTS FOR/20 MINS||9.010|
|GOALS FOR/20 MINS||0.113|
|SHOTS AGAINST/20 MINS||10.475|
|GOALS AGAINST/20 MINS||1.126|
|5v5 1st ASSIST/60||0.00|
Looking a bit closer at Nino’s 2011-2012 numbers, he clearly suffered from some terrible luck, registering a PDO of 898, the lowest of any player in the entire league who player more that 30 games. On the surface, this appears to be yet another case of an organisation judging a player based on things that were beyond his control. Nino never got a chance to bounce back and see his percentages regress to the mean because he was exiled to the AHL. The Wild might reap the benefits of their shortsightedness.
-Here’s the Player Usage Chart for the Islanders forwards who played more than 20 games in 2011-2012:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
You can see in the chart above that Nino struggled to some degree in the NHL. He played reasonably soft competition, though with a baffling lack of offensive zone starts (giving a young goalscorer chances to start shifts in the offensive zone would normally be a smart thing to do). His Corsi was in the red, though not as much as that of his regular linemates Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner.
The impression I get from looking at Niederreiter’s numbers is that the Islanders mishandled him about as badly as anyone could mishandle a talented young player. When they made him a regular fixture in the team in 11-12, he should have been playing with skilled players who could carry the load to a degree until he found his feet, or else he should have been in the AHL. I can’t understand how an NHL team could think it’s a good idea to have him playing with Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner on the 4th line. It’s truly baffling and yet another reason why you should never defer to authority and not criticise what NHL GMs and coaches do. They do some insane and stupid things from time to time.
-Just to show you the horror that’s been Nino’s time in the NHL thus far, here are his most regular linemates since he first played with the Isalnders:
|TEAMMATE||TOI TOGETHER||CF%-TOGETHER||CF%-NINO APART||CF%-TEAMMATE APART|
There’s not a whole pile of stuff to read-into there as the sample sizes are small, but it’s just crazy how few chances he got to play with the likes of Tavares and Bailey. He actually did really well with Tavares, in tiny sample size of course. When you take away his 9 game cameo in 2010-2011 the time spent with Grabner and the other skilled forwards drops considerably, which makes his 11-12 usage look even worse.
If Nino actually gets a chance to play with some quality teammates on the Wild, with his luck rebounding and another year of experience under his belt, there’s every chance that he will thrive.
-Here are some ways in which he could be used:
2nd Line: Heatley-Coyle-Niederreiter
I think this line is a possibility if Coyle wins the 2C job.
2nd Line: Niederreiter-Granlund-Coyle
If Granlund and Coyle are both sticking-around then Nino might get to play LW, depending on how Heatley is doing.
3rd Line: Cooke-Brodziak-Niederreiter
If Heatley and Coyle are the 2nd line wings, then I think Nino would be a good fit on the 3rd. He’s got the size and knack for scoring that the other two have, the only question would be regarding his ability to play tough minutes.
1st Line: Parise-Koivu-Niederreiter
Putting Nino into the situation Charlie Coyle thrived in last year might not be such a bad idea, apart from the fact it makes the Wild less top-heavy. Nino’s has the physical attributes to succeed on that line, and playing with the team’s best forwards could help him establish his game. Nothing like a few goals to kick-start a guy’s development.
His Season Is A Success If…
His Season Is A Disappointment If…
….he can’t hack it in the NHL and has to be re-assigned. He showcases any of the fabled “attitude problems” that we’ve heard so much about.
Okay, that’s it for Nino. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Keith Ballard and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.
Hit me up on Twitter for more hockey views/analysis. Yelling at me is encouraged.
Previous articles in this series:
*Numbers in this article courtesy of: