Neither general manager Garth Snow nor head coach Scott Gordon have provided much insight on where they stand with rookie Nino Niederreiter--whether they'll keep him around or send him back to his junior team--but the 18-year-old rookie is predicting a return to Portland.
Niederreiter, who was selected fifth overall at this June’s draft, will play his ninth game of the NHL season tomorrow in Montreal. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, the Islanders must then decide before the tenth game of the season whether to keep him or send him back to his junior club—the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks-- to avoid losing a year of eligibility on his entry-level contract.
“I’m guessing I’ll go back,” Niederreiter said Tuesday after the mulling the question for several seconds.
In fairness to Niederreiter, he may have based his projection on the fact that both forwards Rob Schremp and Matt Martin practiced with the team yesterday. However, it is unlikely that either will have any bearing on Niederreiter's status.
Schremp is still at least a week away from returning from a back injury and Martin was recalled on an emergency basis for banged-up forwards Michael Grabner (groin) and Trent Hunter (foot).
Also, Snow said he has not had any conversation with Niederreiter about the impending decision.
“We haven’t made a final decision yet,” Snow said when reached by telephone.“There are a lot of ingredients that go into making the decision—what’s in the best interest for the player, what’s in the best interest of the organization, how we feel about the organization we’d be sending him back to, and also the mental makeup of the player,” Snow said.
Based upon his first eight games, Niederreiter said he feels he can play at the NHL level but will understand if the organization feels he needs more seasoning at the junior level.
“I’ve tried my best every game so I wouldn’t be disappointed either way, but it’s the coach’s decision,” said Niederreiter, who has one goal and one assist heading into tomorrow's game against the Candiens. “We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Niederreiter said he’ll feel relieved once he finds out, regardless of the outcome.
“I’m happy that the day has finally come,” he said. “I’ve been thinking every day about it.”
Although Wednesday may be his last chance to make an impression upon the organization, Gordon said the decision will not hinge on any one single performancee.
“I don’t know that you’d base your decision on one game,” he said. “You have to base everything on the whole picture. It won’t be a decision made on just performance. It’s a full evaluation.”
********My prediction? He stays. He's mature both physically and mentally, he already possesses an NHL-caliber shot and the Islanders can use whatever offensive upside he has to offer.*******