Each day until September 15th TPS will take a look at one team from the Eastern conference and one club from the West, spotlighting a rookie or two to watch for this season. This afternoon we explore the freshmen candidates of the New York Islanders.
What better player to pair with an Austrian (Michael Grabner) and a Dane (Frans Nielsen) than another player from a non-traditional hockey power nation? Swiss product Nino Niederreiter might be poised to jump from the WHL to the second line on Long Island this year after another impressive junior season in Portland. The big winger racked up 70 points in 55 games including 41 goals, that after a 9-game audition with the Isles to start the season. This year a permanent roster spot is his to lose.
There is already a lot of youth on the team so adding another fresh face might be a stretch but Ryan Strome is a bit of a wild card. Most expect he'll be back in Niagara but what if he comes to camp and is better than Josh Bailey?
Rhett Rakhshani got into 2 games last year with the big team but led Bridgeport in scoring as a rookie with 62 points. After a stellar career at Denver the undersized forward has to prove that he can do it again at the highest level.
On the back end you can consider Calvin De Haan the most realistic possibility for a rookie. After a 48 point season with the Oshawa Generals the blueliner might be ready for the next level but will that be the NHL or the farm?