Nino Niederreiter isn't the kind of player or person to simply forget about the past. He wants to learn from his ugly rookie season and hopes it can help him develop into the player the Islanders thought they drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2010.
"I want to make a statement this season for sure," Niederreiter said before the team's prospect scrimmage at IceWorks Thursday night. "I'm going to do everything it takes to make the roster this season."
He was doing everything he could -- pretty well, in fact -- in last year's camp before suffering a severe groin injury in the second-to-last preseason game against the Devils. It kept him out for the first six weeks of the season.
When he finally got into the lineup Nov. 15, he eased back in and scored his first goal Dec. 2 in Chicago. It also was his last goal. He suffered a concussion in the next game and lost two more weeks. When he returned, he went 49 straight games without a point to close the season and had a minus-23 rating during that stretch, adding further insult to injury.
"It's not a negative, even when you look at his stats," coach Jack Capuano said. "He had a chance to learn, to be a pro, to be around pros all year. You can see here that he's more relaxed now, but you can also see he knows he has something to prove."
There also is an added option heading into this year's camp: Niederreiter will be 20, old enough to play in the AHL should he not make the Islanders' roster. Even if he does stick with the big club, he can go down to Bridgeport to work out the kinks rather than play fourth-line minutes or sit out as a healthy scratch, as happened last season when he wasn't AHL-eligible.
"I don't look at him any different with that possibility there," Capuano said. "We have to win games right from the start next season, so there's no guarantees for anyone. If Nino comes to camp and plays well, he'll get his shot."
Niederreiter isn't thinking about the minors either.
"I want to make the team. I'm not thinking about the AHL at all," he said. "I've been working out at home [in Switzerland]; now it's time to get back on the ice. It's a long way off to get to training camp. I don't have to be the best player right now."