El Niño causing a stir on Long Island

As hurricane season continues, and hockey season creeps ever closer, talk on Long Island is turning towards El Niño.

No, not that freaky weather pattern folks blame for global warming, never-ending rain storms and Rick DiPietro’s bum hip. I’m talking about the freaky good prospect the Isles tabbed with their first pick in the 2010 NHL Draft -- Nino Niederreiter.

Lighthouse Hockey tackled the topic in wonderful depth yesterday, including a report from Portland, Ore., where Niederreiter’s old WHL club conducted its media day last week … without Niederreiter. WHL scribe Gregg Drinnan of the Kamloops Daily News writes that the Islanders kept their top prospect in New York and speculates the team will keep Niederreiter with the big club to start the season.

ESPN Insider Gare Joyce, the guru of the NHL Draft Blog, wrote back in June that Niederreiter was a prime candidate to crack the NHL from Day One. Here’s what he had to say in an article on the 2010 draftees’ NHL ETAs:

LW Nino Niederreiter, New York Islanders

Under GM Garth Snow, the Isles are wide open to the idea of bringing their prospects right in. John Tavares was a no-brainer, but Josh Bailey is a useful analogy. Niederreiter is more ready than Bailey was a couple of years ago when he had his initiation under fire on Long Island.

Recently ranked as the Isles’ top prospect by Hockey’s Future, Niederreiter projects as a top-line forward in the NHL. A sensational performance (6 goals, 10 points in seven games) at the 2010 World Junior Championships started the hype machine for the super-skilled LW dubbed The Swiss Can’t Miss, and coupled with his NHL-ready size (6-foot-2, 205) he raced up draft boards last spring. However, expectations should be tempered a little as he’s still among the youngest prospects in the draft class. He turns 18, Sept. 8.

Should he sign with the team, he doesn’t have to permanently stick on the roster in order for you to see him in game action this year. The Islanders can sample the goods for nine NHL games before returning him to his junior team. Something to keep a close eye on when the puck drops on training camp.