Tonight will mark one of the biggest opportunities of Nino Niederreiter’s young career.
Niederreiter, the 21-year old taken fifth overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, will get a shot at first-line minutes tonight against the Jets, playing on Minnesota’s top unit alongside captain Mikko Koivu and alternate Zach Parise.
“Nino has played very well through three games,” Wild head coach Mike Yeo told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “He’s a guy that should be able to factor in on that top line and have a positive impact.”
The numbers for Niederreiter through two games are solid. He has two assists and nine shots while averaging 14:38 TOI, but also has a minus-2 rating.
What he figures to bring to the top line, though, is a physical presence. “El Nino” is listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and is second among all Wild skaters in hits thus far, trailing only Matt Cooke.
The move will reshuffle Minnesota’s second line, which should feature Dany Heatley playing alongside Jason Pominville. Yeo said the goal of this move was an opportunity for Heatley “to go out with a guy [Pominville] that’s first off a very smart player, but [also] one that’s always motivating.”
Heatley is scoreless through three games this season, and has just seven shots on goal.