Minnesota Wild: 2018-19 Season Preview of Nino Niederreiter

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 07: Nino Niederreiter #22 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on April 7, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Nino Niederreiter
SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 07: Nino Niederreiter #22 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on April 7, 2018 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Nino Niederreiter /
facebooktwitterreddit

We’re getting into the heavy hitters as we draw closer to the start of Minnesota Wild preseason hockey. Next up, #22 Nino Neiderreiter looks to bounce back after recovering from an ankle injury last year.

Nino Neiderreiter is poised for a return to greatness in 2018-19. The Minnesota Wild forward is fully recovered from the high ankle sprain that bothered him through last season, and ready to re-establish his place on the top line. One year removed from a 57 point season, we should expect big things from him.

History

Neiderreiter is a former 1st round draft pick, 5th overall, of the New York Islanders in 2010. At the time he was the highest drafted Swiss born hockey player in history, but he has since been surpassed by 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier.

Nino made his way from Switzerland to play junior hockey in North America, in an attempt to get attention heading into his draft year. He was extremely succesful with this strategy, finishing 2 seasons in the WHL with 130 points in 120 games.

Neiderreiter made his NHL Debut at the start of the 2010-11 season, playing in 9 games for the New York Islanders and recording 1 goal and 1 assist before he was sent back to his second season in the WHL.

The following year, Neiderreiter was given a permanent spot on the Islanders 4th Line, where he averaged 9-10 minutes per game and was largely unsuccessful in the checking line role New York was asking of him. He finished 2011-12 with only 1 goal in 55 games, and spent a large portion of the season as a healthy scratch.

Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild /

Minnesota Wild

The 2012-13 NHL season was shortened due to the Lockout, so Nino started the year in the AHL. When the Lockout was lifted and the NHL season was ready to begin, Niederreiter was left sidelined by the Islanders as he was not invited to training camp. When the NHL regular season began in January without Nino on the Islanders roster, his agents requested a trade to give Niederreiter a new chance to succeed somewhere else.

He spent the entire lockout shortened season in the AHL, recording 50 points in 74 games, and got his trade wishes answered that summer when he was sent to Minnesota in the trade that saw Minnesota Wild fans say goodbye to Cal Clutterbuck.

The arrival of Nino Niederreiter in Minnesota brought with it a top prospect with a scoring pedigree who was given a tough break on his last team and a determination to succeed where given the chance.

Niederreiter excelled, he immediately secured a top 6 role which he has not relinquished since. He finished his first season with 36 points in 81 game and a +12 rating. In the years since, he has been reliably improving year by year establishing himself as one of the top scorers and top players on the roster and showing an instant chemistry with Eric Staal.

Niederreiter has put up 205 points in 388 games with the Minnesota Wild, he has a +54 rating, and has proven that when given a true chance to succeed he can do just that.

Season Preview

This season, Niederreiter looks to be set to retain his spot on the top line alongside Staal, and should be primed for another healthy season. Last year’s injury concerns were an anomoly for the soon-to-be 26 year old Swiss stud, as it was the first time he has missed due to injury since his rookie season.

The high-ankle sprain has had time to recover, and he looked properly recovered in the spring as he led team Switzerland to a Silver Medal during the 2018 World Championships, recording 9 points in 10 games for his home nation.

His game has grown exponentially every year, and there should be no reason to believe he would have any kind of set back this season. He managed 32 points in only 63 games last year, 4 points shy of what he recorded in his first season with Minnesota.

He has reinvigorated the play of the veteran Staal, and is paired with the recently re-signed breakout star of Jason Zucker. Those 3 have combined for 170 points per season over the last 2 seasons together, and unless Staal starts to show his age we should be able to reliably project another solid year for this trio.

I would be confident in a prediction that Nino finishes this season with 25-30 goals and 50+ points. Another fully healthy season, should result in another increase on yearly production securing himself as deserving of his original 5th overall pick status.

Next. See Where Nino Ranks on the Best Trades in Wild History. dark

In a season with new management and lots of rumor of change in the team make-up, I see no reason to believe that El Nino will be going anywhere anytime soon. This “kid” has his best years still in front of him and an endless ceiling of potential that he keeps climbing.