It's tough to say if the Wild front office and coaching staff knew exactly what they were getting when they swapped Cal Clutterbuck for Nino Niederreiter in a draft day trade. The Wild were rumored to have coveted the Niederreiter in 2010, but the Islanders snatched at number five and the Wild ended up settling on something called Mikael Granlund.
His scouting report looked something like this:
Rising rapidly up the draft rankings since his valiant World Junior Championship performance (highlighted by his "you can't stop me" performance against the Russians), Swiss-born winger Nino Neiderriter has become one of the top prospects in this year's draft.
Niederreiter boasts good size, and all ready knows how to use it to protect the puck etc.. His balance is impeccable leaving him dominant against the wall. Moreover, like many WHL players, Niederreiter plays with some serious grit and never stops competing or bringing the intensity. This is evidenced by his great play in big games. Finally, and this is what really sets Nino apart from many other prospects is how creative he is with the puck for a big guy. He has good hands, and is a proven goal scorer at every level. All his skills, coupled with his character makeup will make Nino an attractive winger for any NHL GM come draft day.
Submitted by: HockeyProspect.com
Nino is a very aggressive, high energy player, that is a step above all of his peers from Switzerland. In the 2009/2010 World Junior Championships, Neiderreiter made a name for himself by scoring timely goals, and for the most part putting on a one man show. He plays a North American style of play, similar to to the likes of Alex Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks. I would expect him to go at pick #10 in the draft, just based on the impact he made against his opposition at the World Junior Championships.
Submitted by: Andrew Kuntze
Obviously, with the Islanders, he had a difficult time living up to the hype. Inconsistent play, difficulty adjusting to the NHL, and unhappiness with the franchise that drafted him all contributed to him being available last June.
Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr weighed in with his thoughts on Niederreiter after the trade happened, "He was a bigtime prospect who deserved to be drafted where he was. He's 20 years old. He stepped into the league and he wasn't ready. Last year he was a very good in the American Hockey League and led their team in scoring in the first half. Obviously he was a little frustrated and I don't all the details behind that. I think they asked for a change in scenery." "He's a big body, can really shoot the puck and plays a power game, but he's also a goal scorer. He projects out to be a top-6 forward with size and scoring ability, which is what we're looking for. We had to pay a price in Clutter, who was a popular guy and physical impact. But to get a potential scoring winger, they're hard to come by."
The Chur, Switzerland native had never scored more than one goal in each of his two prior seasons with New York at the NHL level. But when he got into Wild training camp in September, his skill became evident. Mike Yeo labeled the 21 year old's shot as "silly hard." That silly hard shot is now a no-longer-kept secret in the league.
After scuffling in his first few years in the NHL, Nino is now playing his best when the big lights are shining their brightest. He has grown into the very type of player that he was scouted to be during the Wild's run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Since Game 6 in St. Paul versus the Colorado Avalanche, a game in which you saw Niederreiter dominate whole shifts with his size and physicality. He was kept off the score sheet, but had three shots and impacted the game as the Wild staved off elimination.
Number 22 became the hero in Game 7. His overtime game-winner was a goal that may go down in Wild lore after an excruciatingly emotional rollercoaster of a game. "Obviously, I don't think it's a secret any more the type of shot he has, and you saw both shots he scored were perfect shots," Brodziak said. "We see it in practice everyday. If he gets a shot off that he wants, no goalie is saving it. It was a great shot, and I'm definitely glad he made that decision." He had another big goal that tied the game at three and an assist before the game went into overtime.
Friday night was another one of those games where he, "raised the bar," according to Mike Yeo. Niederreiter scored the eventual game-winning goal when he streaked down the left side after receiving a nice touch-pass from Charlie Coyle in the neutral zone. He let hit "silly hard" shot go and it caught the far side upper corner over Blackhawks Stanley Cup winning netminder Corey Crawford. It was a huge goal that put the Wild on top for good and it came right after Chicago was able to tie the game at two goals apiece. "It was a hell of a play up from Spurgeon and Charlie Coyle. I mean, he put it right in my lane and I feel like I needed to get my shot off quickly and it went in," Nino said as he explained the goal to Kevin Gorg post-game.
It would be tough to tell if the Wild brass had seen this coming from Niederreiter. He played 16 impactful minutes in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. He scored his second game-winning goal in the 2014 playoffs, tying former Wild player, Wes Walz, for most playoff game-winning goals in franchise history.
El Nino's presence is getting noticed. Michael Russo tweeted this out comparing him to Clutterbuck:
Awesome touch pass by Coyle into the zone, and Nino is deadly off the rush. Getting it on net is the difference w/ this No. 22— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) May 10, 2014
And this came from SB Nation Main NHL hub writer, Adam Gretz:
Said it the other night, and saw it again tonight, but every time I watch the Wild Nino Niederreiter is doing something impressive.— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) May 10, 2014
What you're witnessing is the real coming of age of many of the kids that will shape the future of this Wild franchise. From Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and now Nino Niederrieter, that 2010 draft class is paying huge dividends for the Wild. The best part of the long playoff run that the Wild are on is that these kids are learning about what it takes to win games in the playoffs. "He raised the bar," Yeo said. "So he's got himself in trouble now because this is what we expect." "Those are the moments you dream about as a kid," Niederreiter said.
Quotes were pulled from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, mynhldraft.com, and Fox Sports - North