Nino Niederreiter is two months younger than Kirill Kabanov. Niederreiter spent his 2011-12 in the NHL, Kabanov spent his finishing out juniors in Shawinigan.
Nino has the "NHL body" and piled up goals in the WHL, Kirill has the NHL hands (but not yet the body) and put up a point per game with three teams in the QMJHL. We know the Isles would've loved to have Niederreiter in the AHL last year if only rules allowed. Kabanov was probably right where he needed to be after years of drama both inside and outside his control.
Now both will get a crack at the pros -- for Niederreiter, hopefully a fresh restart after an awful rookie year saddled by injuries and a steep NHL learning curve. It's going to be interesting to see where there paths are headed a year from now.
Sometimes players take big leaps at early ages. Niederreiter certainly needs that. We've seen his talent -- his lone goal this season, it was a beauty of a wrister -- and we've seen him engage physically to good effect as the season progressed. The defensive coverage is very much a work in progress and a good reason why he wasn't trusted with more NHL minutes at 5-on-5.
The injuries that delayed the start of his season and then concussed him at mid-season had to be factors, but they don't explain all of it. (Goodness, we had him all the way up at #6 in September, the pre-NHL hopes were so high.) Niederreiter still has plenty of progressing to do to pan out as a top pick. Good thing he's only 19. There is plenty of room to improve -- and to shoot back up this list.
How We Voted
Our tally is below. Here's LHH author Chris McNally explaining his vote, which was one of two higher ones on our panel:
It's hard to say that a 19-year-old has dropped 10+ spots after a rookie season where 1) Everyone knew he shouldn't have been in the NHL and 2) He was used sparingly in a role he had never ever played before. 19-year-old Top 5 picks don't lose their talent and NHL promise before their 20th birthday, and I find it impossible to say that there are 10 better players under 25 years of age for the Islanders.
I try to balance my rankings based on proven NHL usefulness and overall talent and promise, being we are talking about kids here. While I realize the reason for Nino's rookie season on the fourth line, I can't help but think that if he had played a full season with more offensive players that his season, and his Top 25 Under 25 ranking would have looked a lot better.
Hate the game, not the player...at least for now.
Panelists: CanadianIslesLifer making a return appearance, as well as most of the authors at LHH.
Note: For those LHH readers who sent their own selections in, JPinVA has them summarized in this FanPost. That one will be fun to measure against our panelists' results.
You can see which other prospects just missed our top 25 in this preview post.
- At #25 was 2011 pick John Persson
- #24 saw another Swede from 2011, Johan Sundstrom
- At #23, the irritant known as Justin DiBenedetto
- #22: Kirill Petrov, with an asterisk
- #21: Brenden Kichton, Western late bloomer
- #20: Anders Lee, loophole guy?
- #19: Big Scott Mayfield
- #18: Rhett Rakshani, Queen of Funk
- #17: Aaron Ness, Mini-Me Rising
- #16: Anders Nilsson, Towering Thor
- #15: Kirill Kabanov, now a Proven Winner(TM)
- Our September 2011 25U25 Poll Results
Disclaimer You'll See with Each 25U25 Post
To reflect the variety of ways you can place value on prospects with uncertain futures, we brought a range of philosophies to this: Some voters valued present talent/maturity more, some valued future potential more. All are averaged with the intent of capturing a moment in time in the evolution of the Islanders prospect pipeline.