Five days ago, when I wrote about five players the Islanders could be eying at number five, I had joked that they should select Nino Niederreiter for the simple fact that he has a great hockey name and a perfect nickname "El Nino"—I never would've imagined that they would actually select him.
Niederreiter was a player, in my opinion that the Islanders should pick because he best fits their style of play. But when Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley fell into their laps after Gudbranson had been selected, I thought for sure they would be selecting one of those defensemen. While I quietly coveted one of the big three d-men, Niederreiter was the player I personally had ranked higher than Connolly and whom I really wanted should they picked an offenseman.
So who is Nino Niederreiter?
The man they call El Nino is a 6'2" left winger who shoots left and in his rookie season with the Portland Winterhawks had 36 goals and 24 assists for 60 points in 65 games. He was selected to the 2010 CHL top prospects game and played for Team Orr where he earned his notoriety on Youtube for a one handed trick shot during a trick shot competition and scored the opening goal the next day during the game. He finished his rookie season with the most goals on the Winterhawks, fourth on his team in points and 18th in the entire WHL and second among all rookies.
Did the Islanders need to pick Niederreiter at five?
Garth Snow is quoted on record stating he tried to move the fifth pick to move down and add extra picks, but just couldn't find the right deal, he also risked losing out on the player he wanted should he move down too far. By standing pat, he gave himself the absolute best chance to select the "best player available" as he has said numerous times during this draft.
Islanders Select Brock Nelson 30th Overall
The Islanders would spend the rest of the first round looking to move up into the late part of the round, and would eventually find a trading partner in the Chicago Blackhawks. They traded both of their second round picks (35th and 58th) for Chicago's lone first rounder (30th) and would select center Brock Nelson.
Nelson, despite being selected right out of High School (Warroad HS of the USHS), is a 6'2" 205lb center who had an astounding 53 goals and 42 assists for 95 points in 31 games . He finished the season +55 and if you do the math, averaged just over 3 points per game. Now, there is no guarantee that the scoring prowess will carry over into his pro-career—but that's still impressive. Nelson was also a finalist for Minnesota's Mr. Hockey Award, given to the top HS player in Minnesota.
Nelson comes from a hockey family, his grandfather Billy Christian and his great uncle Roger Christian were on the 1960 United States gold medal team, and his uncle Dave Christian was on the 1980 United States gold medal team. Not many players can boast about their hockey heritage, especially having three family members with gold medals.
While Nelson is several years away from breaking into the Islanders lineup, he already possesses a large frame and the work ethic it will take to make the NHL. Every review I have read on Nelson claims his mix of size, speed and talent will make him a successful pro player. Nelson is committed to play for the University of North Dakota next year.
After being selected 30th overall by the Islanders, Nelson received a phone call from fellow Islander and Minnesotan, Kyle Okposo.
By giving up two second round selections, especially what would equate to a late first rounder in the 35th pick, the Islanders potentially gave up a lot in order to select Nelson. They currently have no second round picks this morning, although knowing Garth Snow that could change.
Overall, I give the Islanders an A- for their work during round one.
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