Islanders keep Niederreiter, but for how long?

2010 first-round draft pick Nino Niederreiter takes a

2010 first-round draft pick Nino Niederreiter takes a shot on goal during Islanders prospect camp at Nassau Coliseum. (July 7, 2010) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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The Islanders whittled their roster to the league-mandated 23 players Wednesday and first-round draft pick Nino Niederreiter made the cut.

The 18-year-old Swiss winger, who was selected fifth overall in the June draft, is expected to play in the regular-season opener against Dallas on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Niederreiter joins fellow first-round Islanders draft picks John Tavares (2009) and Josh Bailey (2008), who also made the team out of camp.

"It's a great feeling," Niederreiter said. "I was waiting for a call from Garth [Snow] and now that I've gotten to know that I've made the team, I'm really happy about it."

"He's more than capable of playing," coach Scott Gordon said. "We just have to make the right decision in that he gets the right amount of ice time, the right amount of opportunity to justify our decision to keep him here."


If Niederreiter struggles, the Islanders can send him back to his junior team (Portland Winterhawks, WHL) within the first nine games of the season without financial penalty.

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"Right now, it's a one-game thing," Gordon said. "We'll approach it one game at a time. I don't think there's any rush to make a decision."

Niederreiter said he still feels the pressure and wants to prove he belongs on the team. "Definitely," he said. "I definitely don't see me as on the team yet. I still have to work hard. I'm hoping I play in the opening game. We'll see what's going to happen."

To make room for Niederreiter and the newly acquired Michael Grabner, who was claimed off waivers from Florida on Tuesday, the Islanders sent forward Matt Martin to Bridgeport and defenseman Calvin de Haan back to his junior team, the Oshawa Generals (OHL).

The Islanders will carry eight defensemen. Enforcer Trevor Gillies and agitator Jon Sim, both on two-way contracts, also made the team.

Assuming Niederreiter plays on opening night, he'll be the youngest player in Islanders history and the youngest in the NHL since Jordan Staal's debut as a Penguin in 2006.

That possibility of playing in his first regular-season NHL game still had not sunk in yet for Niederreiter.

"I'm still dreaming about it," he said.

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