Nino Niederreiter makes the New York Islanders' opening day roster

ninoniedmakestheisles.jpgIt’s not surprising that No.1 pick Taylor Hall will make the Edmonton Oilers as a rookie, but as you go deeper into the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, it becomes less expected. So I was a little surprised to hear that Nino Niederreiter, the fifth pick of the draft, made the cut for the New York Islanders.

Just four months after making history at the 2010 Entry Draft by becoming the highest Swiss-born player ever selected, Nino Niederreiter will become the youngest player in the history of the New York Islanders when they host the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

Niederreiter, who just turned 18 on Sept. 8, learned Wednesday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum that he officially has made the opening-night roster.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Niederreiter, who skated on a line with Doug Weight and Josh Bailey on Wednesday morning. “I was waiting for a call to (Isles GM) Garth (Snow), and I got to know that I’m on the team. I’m really happy about it.”

Now, as the article points out, the Islanders will have nine games to decide if they want to keep Niederreiter at the NHL level. If they decide to keep him with the big team, that will “burn” one of the seasons on his entry-level contract and the team will need to re-sign him in three years. Sending him down some time before that nine game deadline will maintain another year on that deal, which might be good since the 18-year-old might need some more seasoning.

One interesting sub-plot is the possibility of Niederreiter playing against the Montreal Canadiens and his nemesis Michael Cammalleri, whose slash on Niederreiter earned him a one-game suspension. Oddly enough, that game against Montreal would be the 10th game of the season for the Islanders, so it would be an interesting scenario.

Anyway, that’s looking far ahead because it’s a game-by-game thing, as Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. For now, Niederreiter can feel proud of his accomplishment and try to stay at the NHL level by playing well.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado