June 05 2012 12:00PM
The internet can be a cruel place. Nino Niederreiter had a bad season. In fact, it was historically unproductive. A quick Google search is probably all you need to see to realize how down casual observers are on Nino.
The second suggested search is "nino niederreiter bust". The former top ten pick played ten minutes a night on a bad team for 55 games and notched one solitary goal to go with exactly zero assists. It's early to call him a bust. As bad as his season was there is still plenty of reason for optimism going forward. Just how bad was his season though?
Yeah, Pretty Bad
The most awe inspiring aspect of Niederreiter's season is that he was so unproductive over such a long stretch of time. His unique situation (lack of productivity plus no depth) only gave the Islanders two options once they determined he wasn't fit for top six minutes for whatever reason. They could either sit him and completely waste a critical development year, or give him token bottom line minutes. With Nino locked on the roster, token minutes were obviously preferable to healthy scratches.
What happened in those bottom line minutes is pretty remarkable. Think for a minute about how bad a player has to be going to get one point in 55 games. In the history of the league only 19 player seasons have featured at least 55 games played while registering only one point (thanks Hockey Reference). Of those 19 seasons only ten were from forwards, and three of those were from Ken Baumgartner alone. The remainder are from Mark Janssens, Brad Staubitz, Mick Vukota, Stu Grimson, Raitis Ivanans, Tyler Wright, and Nino Niederreiter. It's almost unimaginable to think of Nino in that group.
The -29 Niederreiter has to his name sticks out like a sore thumb too. Minus twenty-nine in 55 games while playing ten minutes a night almost seems like a hilarious typo. Plus/minus might not mean much, but video game numbers are almost always going to be concerning. Nino's season sticks out when compared to the other teenagers who have had the misfortune to reach at least -29.
The average production of every teenager allowed to ever hit -29 is 56 points. The fact that he was allowed to continue playing is a testament to how highly the Islanders view him, but unquestionably there will be those who perceive him as a bust already.
The Bright Side
To the contrary, his career isn't over by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it doesn't take much of a leap of faith to believe that Niederreiter is close to turning the corner. The forwards below are all teenagers since 1990 that have gotten into at least 20 games, but less than 700 minutes. The goal of those parameters was to isolate teenagers who played relatively limited minutes.
Nino unfortunately sits with the Rico Fata's and Vaclav Nedorost's of the world point production-wise, but it's important to keep his fourth line minutes in mind. He wasn't exactly playing with John Tavares.
Despite the poor teammates, few minutes, and no powerplay time Niederreiter got the puck to the net. I sorted the previous players by shots/15 minutes.
The company Niederreiter kept in the shot department is much more consistent with what we would expect from a talent of his caliber. I have no idea what happened to him in 2012, but he isn't nearly as bad as his production would otherwise suggest. He may end up flaming out eventually, but in his ugly looking rookie season Niederreiter proved that he can at least get the puck to the net in the NHL.
The next step is actually converting those shots into chances and production. He may never do it, but it's way too early to write Niederreiter off.