In yesterday's draft, the Minnesota Wild acquired RW Nino Niederreiter from the New York Islanders in exchange for Cal Clutterbuck and the 70th overall pick. Niederreiter is a Swiss native, and was the Isles 5th overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft. The Wild were big on him back in 2010, but never got the chance to draft him. He played for the Islanders AHL affiliate (Bridgeport) all of this past season putting up 28 goals and 22 assists in 74 games.
Niederreiter had a great run with junior hockey. He was one of the most highly touted Swiss players in recent memory. He had a prolific career in the Swiss Junior leagues, scoring 113 goals in his 105 games (over the course of three seasons there). He went on to play for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks for two seasons (2009-11), scoring 77 goals in 120 games.
The Islanders did "El Nino" no favors after he signed his entry level contract. He played with the big club briefly at the end of the 2010-11 season, scoring one goal and one assist. Then in 2011-12, he played in 55 games with the Islanders. He had a injury which set him back in training camp, then suffered a concussion midway through that season. In those 55 games played, he only scored one goal while getting fourth line minutes. It was a disastrous season for the 19 year old.
Heading into the 2013 NHL season, Niederreiter was expecting an invite to camp with the Islanders. He had scored 36 points in the first 37 games for Bridgeport during the lockout, but never received that invite when camp opened. Niederreiter did not appreciate that.
Just shortly after the 2013 NHL season opened, Niederreiter requested a trade from the Islanders because he was unhappy with the way the team handled him (who can blame him when a 19 year old rookie was playing the fourth line the season before?). The Islanders refused his request, and kept him in the AHL all season. "El Nino" didn't even receive a call up when the Islanders made it into the 2013 playoffs.
More recently, Niederreiter was part of the Swiss team's improbable run to the silver medal at the World Championships in May. He notched five goals and three assists in 10 games played for the Swiss.
The bottom line of his career so far is the fact the Islanders mishandled their star prospect and it soured Niederreiter's attitude with the club. The writing was clearly on the wall, that the two sides were going to part ways.
"El Nino" has a goal scorers mentality (something the Wild needs). He has the tools to be a 30 goal scorer in this league. He has tremendous stick handling abilities and his speed can be a great asset to this team. He just needs to have his skills polished up a bit. A change of scenery could perhaps push him in the right direction in terms of polishing up those skills.
Wild fans may not be happy with trading away Cal Clutterbuck. He has been a fan favorite since he came up with the team in 2009. But in a few years, we could be talking about how great a trade this was for the Wild. They got a player with tremendous upside for Clutter and a third round pick. In essence, they traded Clutterbuck and that pick for a number five overall pick. Be glad the team made this trade.
Because in two or three years, the Islanders will be regretting this trade big time.