It seemed a little bizarre to me to watch the 2010 NHL Draft on the scoreboard at the Coli and see the Isles "Entourage" approach the dais to announce their pick and walking next to Garth is a short guy in a suit that doesn't look like he works for the team. He reaches the top step, turns around, and its....... Kevin Connolly from HBO's Entourage!! That's a little weird. I mean, I know he is a huge fan of the team and all --- it just seems odd to think he was sitting at the table while the brain trust discussed their selection and then accompanies Garth, Charles, and Ryan, to the podium for the pick. Just odd... all I'm saying.
Now on to the pick -- Nino Niederreiter, a Swiss winger who played in Portland in the WHL. I was at the Coli for the draft and listened to mostly groans from the fans because Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley were still on the board and a lot of fans were pulling for the Isles to pick a defensemen. I DISAGREE. I think Garth made a wise and bold choice. Here's why:
First -- the Isles were 20th in the league in scoring last season and too often suffered from a lack of scoring from their 2d and 3d liners. They NEED wingers who can put the puck in the net and Nino certainly can help fill that need.
Second -- the Isles have a decent collection of young defensemen in the system -- many of them proved themselves capable of playing in the NHL last season; i.e.; MacDonald, Kohn, and Reese. Plus, Hillen has developed nicely and they have DeHaan and Hamonic in the wings. They still have Streit, Martinek, Witt, and Gervais -- granted Witt and Gervais don't give you much. Surely between all of the above --- and don't forget free agency --- the Isles can find 6 guys to steady the blueline.
Last --- Nino is a pretty good player who is likely to be NHL ready (or very close to ready) when the season opens. Defensemen are notorious for taking longer to develop and both Fowler and Gormley have weaknesses. Fowler isn't very physical and Gormley lacks size and is known to be a little weaker skater. They probably would have started the season in Bridgeport and we wouldn't see either of them for a few years anyway.
Here is the scoop on Nino ---
Niederreiter boasts good size, and all ready knows how to use it to protect the puck etc.. His balance is impeccable leaving him dominant against the wall. Moreover, like many WHL players, Niederreiter plays with some serious grit and never stops competing or bringing the intensity. This is evidenced by his great play in big games. Finally, and this is what really sets Nino apart from many other prospects is how creative he is with the puck for a big guy. He has good hands, and is a proven goal scorer at every level. All his skills, coupled with his character makeup will make Nino an attractive winger for any NHL GM come draft day.
This is exactly what the Isles need -- a proven goal scorer on the wing and someone who plays with grit. I say this was a good selection. Now let's see what Garth and the boys do with the rest of their picks and in the free agent pool.