Over the course of the next month, Konopkaesque will review each player who suited up for the Wild this season, with a few exceptions. 1) They had to play at least ten games during the season and/or playoffs (sorry, Brett Bulmer, Carson McMillan and John Curry) and 2) they had to finish the season as part of the organization, which ironically excludes the man for whom this blog is named, among others.
So, without further blathering, here’s today’s subject:
Nino Niederreiter, RW, Age 21
Remaining contract (per capgeek): RFA in 2014
Games: 81 (Regular Season) 13 (Playoffs)
Goals: 14 (Regular Season) 3 (Playoffs)
Assists: 12 (Regular Season) 3 (Playoffs)
+/-: +12 (Regular Season) Even (Playoffs)
PIM: 44 (Regular Season) 8 (Playoffs)
ATOI: 14:06 (Regular Season) 14:40 (Playoffs)
What Did He Do?:
Writing anything objective about Niederreiter’s season as a whole is a tricky proposition. Until the puck drops on the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Niederreiter will be associated almost exclusively with the moment that was the most celebrated occurrence in Minnesota professional sports since Andrew Brunette did the exact same thing 11 years ago.
Putting aside that special moment (for now) and looking at Niederreiter’s season in full shows a picture of a player who is still growing into his own, and has both a huge future and some serious flaws in his game. We all know by now where Niederreiter came from, namely the trash bin behind Nassau County Coliseum, after Garth Snow mismanaged his young career so badly that Niederreiter couldn’t take it anymore. One grand larceny of a trade later, and the Wild have a player drafted four spots ahead of Mikael Granlund and 23 ahead of Charlie Coyle…and he’s got a point to prove.
Niederreiter spent most of the season looking for a home. He bounced between the top line and the third line, popping up occasionally on the power play but never really settling in to an offensive groove. His gifts are undeniable. He’s an excellent skater for a big man, and he has some of the quickest, slickest hands in the Wild lineup. The goals he scores leave you salivating for more of the same, but at this point in his career they don’t come frequently enough given his natural ability.
In addition to his offensive game, Niederreiter is a world-class pain in the backside, and it was a common sight to see him mixing it up in front of an opposition net. He also tries to hit everything in an opposition jersey, which is fantastic, but it doesn’t seem that he cares too often for the legality of his hits. Many times this season I wondered if he wasn’t just a suspension waiting to happen. He also has a propensity for lazy or just plain bad penalties. Even game seven, which ended with Nino as hero, began with Nino as potential goat. It was his (bad) hooking penalty less than two minutes into the game which lead to Colorado’s successful power play and early lead. Obviously he atoned, but the narrative could have been very different for Niederreiter had that goal been more important to the game.
Still, I don’t want to go too far in the other direction on Niederreiter. He was still perhaps the best trade pickup Chuck Fletcher has ever made, and the best is likely yet to come.
What to Expect if You’re Expecting: If you can’t get excited about the possibilities of what Niederreiter can bring in future seasons, you may need a Red Bull. Given the unpredictability of the future of hockey players (see Orr, Bobby, or Neely, Cam, etc. etc.) I try to stay away from future predictions that are too bold, but I firmly believe that Niederreiter will lead the Wild in scoring multiple times throughout his career. He certainly has all of the tools, he just needs more time to organize them in the box.
Trade Prospects?: I’m sure everyone (with the possible exception of the Islanders) would love to have him. Fletcher would be crazy to give him up.
Season Highlight: Like you don’t know:
If you want something more comprehensive, this should do the job: