By Allan Muir
Does anyone want to play for the New York Islanders anymore?
Katie Strang of ESPN New York is reporting Nino Niederreiter, the team’s top prospect, is the latest to request a ticket to anywhere else in the league.
“The former first-round pick (5th overall, 2010) is unhappy with his current situation, the source said, and feels he would be best served playing somewhere other than with the Islanders organization. His agent informed Islanders general manager Garth Snow of the request last week, the source said, although Snow is not believed to be amenable to doing a deal — at least at the moment.”
It’s safe to assume the 20-year-old winger was miffed after being passed over when the Isles sent out training camp invites, and if that is the case you can see where he’s coming from. He spent the majority of last season with the team and while he only scored once an finished a staggering minus-29, he had every reason to believe he was in their plans for 2013.
But those camp invites weren’t third grade valentines that went out to everyone in the class. The shortened camp meant less time for players to stake their claim to a spot and the team had greater confidence in the immediate contributions that could be made by players like David Ullstrom and Colin MacDonald.
If that’s how it went down, it was probably the right decision on Snow’s part. Ullstrom and MacDonald are older and better suited for the depth spots that were available.
Going by how poorly Niederreither fared in that role during a 55-game stint last season, there was no reason to expect significantly better results this time around. A little puck luck might have polished his numbers a bit, but it wouldn’t have altered the general impression that his confidence was shot and that what he needed more than anything was the chance to get his mojo back.
He’s doing exactly that in the AHL, with 19 goals, 36 points and an All-Star Game invite to his credit thus far. He’s improving his play away from the puck, too. In time, he’ll be a solid top-six forward.
But there’s no need to rush him. He’s 20 and he still has plenty to prove at that level before he moves on to the next one. That may be a tough pill for a top pick to swallow, but it’s better for the long-term–both his and the team’s. And with a high-end asset like Niederreiter, the long term has to take priority over one shortened season.
Maybe the Isles didn’t communicate their plans well enough to his camp. If that’s the case, shame on them. And if Niederreiter lacks the patience to work his way up the ladder, then shame on him.
Whoever’s at fault, there’s damage control to be done. But it will get done. And odds are this will be smoothed over before a trade is the only recourse.