Finally, I’m guessing, finally, Nino Niederreiter has put together a few decent professional games to show that whatever he did in the junior leagues wasn’t a fluke.
Niederreiter’s career began inauspiciously enough, selected 5th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2010 entry draft. And what a way to go into the draft. Niederreiter was dominant during that winter’s World Juniors, including scoring the game tying and winning goals against the Russians in the quarterfinals.
He scored 36 times for the Portland Winterhawks, plus 8 more times in the playoffs. What was there to go wrong?
Well, a whole heck of a lot, by the time he turned pro. Niederreiter may have set the world record for bad luck to begin a professional career. After 77 goals in 120 games in the Western Hockey League, Niederreiter in his rookie campaign with the Islanders last year, scored a single time in 55 games.
Not only that, but he did not have a single assist. That’s right, in the rookie campaign for one of junior hockey’s most dynamic scorers, a single point was scored in 55 games played. A lot of Portland fans wanted Niederreiter back, particularly as he was a healthy scratch later on in the season. But the New York Islanders held onto him, despite his lack of success at both ends.
Why did this happen? How did a player, ranked so high, coming into the pros with such a dominant scoring streak, simply not convert when he had to? He’s an extremely odd case. Rather than getting into screen shots of every single shot he took, I think I may just share a few of Niederreiter’s statistics with the group:
-Only 14 forwards in the history of the NHL, since individual shot statistics have been recorded, have ended a season with a shooting percentage of below 2%. This includes Niederreiter, who converted an astonishing 1.4% of his shots in his rookie year: A single goal on 74 shots. The only players even close to Niederreiter’s age close to replicating that feat are Gilbert Brule, who scored once on 74 shots as a 21-year old, and Jeff Petry, an Edmonton defenceman who is incorrectly listed as a centreman by Hockey Reference.
-I talk about “PDO” a lot on this blog. PDO doesn’t stand for anything, but it’s the addition of a player’s on-ice shooting and save percentages, and a reliable indicator of how lucky a player has gotten over the course of a short span of games. Since the PDO stat began being record by Behind the Net in the 2007-2008 season, Niederreiter has the lowest, by far. In fact, he has the only PDO below 900 over the course of a single season, thanks in part to an absolutely unconscionable 0.84% shooting rate by the Islanders when he was on the ice.
-To put that into perspective… according to timeonice, a website that tracks a variety of different shot outcomes, Niederreiter was on the ice for just 2 goals for the Islanders… despite the team having taken 240 shots with him on the ice. Without going too far into detail of what happened when Niederreiter was out there, you can probably infer that his team got amazingly unlucky, as in, a lot of posts, a lot of great saves on the part of the goaltender.
Niederreiter’s not a bad player. I can assure you: I’ve seen him, he’s good. He has a wicked shot and terrific hands and people generally just love to watch him work. Somehow, it didn’t work out for him in the National Hockey League, at least in his rookie season. He generated more than a shot on goal per game and could have been productive, but the bounces just weren’t going his way.
I mentioned above that things were going well for him at the pro level. So far, he has four goals in six games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, leading the Islanders’ American Hockey League affiliate in both goals and points. While six games also is, indubitably, a small sample, I think it’s reassuring that Niederreiter just all of a sudden didn’t explode on us and generate a tyke hockey-level shooting ability out of thin air.
Anyway, these are the types of thoughts I have when there is a lockout. I look at the PDO of former Western League players.