Niederreiter, Kreider need more development, junior players shine in tryouts and Kassian is Vancouver’s best player

Nino Niederreiter would benefit more from time in the AHL than a trade away from Long Island. (Andrew430/Wikimedia Commons)

Nino Niederreiter would benefit more from time in the AHL than a trade away from Long Island. (Andrew430/Wikimedia Commons)

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News does not see how Nino Niederreiter could possibly merit asking for a trade due to his slow development, but understands his lack of success stems from being rushed to the NHL before he was ready. Campbell has never seen a player’s career hurt by teams letting them develop more in major junior or in the minors and the Islanders are right to let him continue develop elsewhere so he can b an asset for the franchise later on instead of letting him go to another team.

The New York Rangers are in a similar position with Chris Kreider who is struggling this season after a greta playoff run that saw him score five goals and seven points in 18 games. Coach John Tortorella is considering sending him to the Connecticut Whale of the American League for more seasoning, a decision that could have many long-term positive effects. From Campbell:

In fact, Rangers coach John Tortorella said after his team’s 4-3 overtime win against the Boston Bruins Wednesday night that a one-way ticket to the Connecticut Whale of the American League might ultimately be the best thing for Kreider. It might come as a shock to those who watched Kreider play in the playoffs last year and had him penciled in as a Calder Trophy contender, but it has not to Tortorella and the Rangers.

“That’s something I think we really have to talk about as an organization because I still think he needs to go through the process,” Tortorella said. “We need to be really careful how we deal with this kid. That shouldn’t be a shock. I’ve seen players just ruined because you put them in a situation and they just struggle and they don’t succeed and they never come out of it. And they’re done, they’re out of the game. I do not want to see that happen to him.”

You can say all you want about Tortorella, but he has a great hockey mind and wants nothing more than to see Kreider succeed in the NHL.

*     *     *

Speaking of young players, rookies have been given five games, instead of the usual nine, to earn a spot on their respective rosters this season before either being sent back down to major junior or having their entry-level contract begin. Currently, there are five players from the Ontario League auditioning the make the full-time rosters in the NHL: Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia Sting), Boston’s Dougie Hamilton (Niagara IceDogs), Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton (Oshawa Generals), Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell (Plymouth Whalers) and Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele (Barrie Colts).

So far Galchenyuk is the only one to score a goal, but the rest have also been receiving positive comments from their coaches and teammates. Hamilton has quite a task ahead of him, earning a spot on one of the league’s best bluelines, but played a ton of minutes and received praise from captain Zdeno Chara after Monday’s win over Winnipeg:

He played a really solid game,’’ Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara told the Boston Globe in reference to Hamilton, a first round pick of the Bruins in 2011 who was second to only Chara in time on ice in Monday’s 2-1 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets.  “He seemed comfortable out there — great job by him.’’

Meanwhile in Anaheim, Rakell is enjoying playing with stars Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry, from whom he has learned a lot in the past few weeks:

“It’s awesome,” Rakell told the Orange County register. “In a week, I’ve learned so much. You see all the great players that are here. Just being around is going to help me. It’s so much fun in all kinds of ways.”

Other major junior players vying for a roster spot are Minnesota’s Matt Dumba (Red Deer Rebels) of the Western League and Buffalo’s Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec Remparts), Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John Sea Dogs) and New Jersey’s Stefan Matteau (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada) of the Quebec Major Junior League. With two or three games left for each player to show what they can do in the NHL, it should make for a second week of the season filled with great story lines.

*     *     *

Zack Kassian has been one of Vancouver's best players early on this season. (Loxy!!/Wikimedia Commons)

Zack Kassian has been one of Vancouver’s best players early on this season. (Loxy!!/Wikimedia Commons)

Zack Kassian, traded from Buffalo to Vancouver at last year’s trade deadline for Cody Hodgson, is making quite an impression in his new city this year as he is off to a great start and has earned playing time with the Sedin twins. David Ebner of The Globe and Mail notes how, despite question up and down the lineup, Kassian has been one of their best players, using his body to create plays and finishing when he has to. He was instrumental in the Canucks’ first win of the season, scoring a goal in regulation and the shoot-out winner.

He made huge strides over the summer and has become worth giving up one of the top young prospects for. From Ebner:

At night’s end, Kassian had 19:14 of ice time, the most of any Vancouver forward except for the Sedins, scored a goal, had three shots on net, and four hits – the physical presence is something the Canucks really need. The goal Wednesday night adds to a cracker of a goal against Edmonton Sunday. This is all from a player who, last spring in the playoffs against the Kings, saw a maximum ice time of six minutes in Game 2 and was not even dressed for the decisive Game 5.

Off-season fitness work has paid off, including sticking around town to train with the Sedins, well-known fitness freaks. Along with the physical work, there was the establishment of a bond.

“You see their workout ethic and you talk to them and go for lunch with them and whatnot and just get comfortable,” said Kassian in the locker room after the Wednesday night win.

 That work ethic has paid off as Vancouver desperately needs a physical presence up front and it appears as though Kassian is their guy.


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