After a rather dismal rookie season spending time on the fourth line and accumulating one point over 55 games with the New York Islanders, Nino Niederreiter has made his mark in the American Hockey league.
Rumors swirled that Niederreiter had been too rushed and may be a draft bust (albeit after only 55 games and rather prematurely).
Upon the lockout, Nino was assigned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and immediately had a marked improvement in his play. The team went on a tear, posting a 10-4 record until they dropped three in a row last week. All the while, Nino sits 11th in points with nine goals and nine assists for 18 points in 17 games.
Nino scored more than a point per game in the Western Hockey League, and a lot was expected of him after being selected fifth overall in the draft.
The confidence developed in the AHL for the time being has paid dividends. Prior to his play in the NHL, Niederreiter was basically a high-scoring power forward. He had the size to be physical and the hockey sense and hands to be an effective scorer.
The last thing Niederreiter should be considered is a draft bust. Perhaps he was a little low on confidence, and a steam-rolling by Mark Fistric last year didn't help, but if Nino continues to play like this he'll end up being a top scorer in the AHL by season's end.
The question is, should he be recalled if and when the lockout ends?
In short, his performance on a call-up should be the deciding factor.
If he can translate his AHL play to the NHL then he should remain. If not, allow him to continue his development in Bridgeport.