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This is one of the first of many players I'll be recommending as potentially very good picks that will often be available in later rounds of fantasy hockey drafts this season. I usually play in leagues that count shots, hits, PIM, PPP and the usual G, A, sometimes +/- and blocks too.
Here's why Nino Niederreiter is a SmartPick:
Name, Position: Nino Niederreiter, RW
: He'll be turning 23 this September and already has the experience of two full seasons and most of a third. Between his first and second season he played a full season in the AHL (12-13)
: 6'2 ,210 and could have grown more this summer. 155 hits in 14-15, 175 in 13-14 and 129 in his 55-game rookie season four years ago with the Islanders.
: 24 (2nd on team behind Parise), on only 149 shots, a 16.1% shooting percentage. The year before he took 6 less shots (143) and scored 10 less goals (14), a 9.8% shooting percentage. In the AHL he managed 28 goals in a full season with a 12.2% shooting percentage.
: 149 in 80 games last year, 143 in 81 in 13-14. Niederreiter hasn't had a top six spot in his passed two seasons with Minnesota, but has shown that he can shoot the puck well and often when given opportunities. He has 5 or more SOG five times all within the first half of last season, and had 3+ SOG 22 times. In the AHL he averaged over 3 shots a game in his one full season.
: 5th overall in 2010, this guy has a ridiculous shot and doesn't need many shots to score. He has size, he hits, and great offensive abilities from what I've seen from him since 2010.
: Minnesota is an up and coming team lead by stars like Parise, Vanek, Suter, Pominville and Koivu. This makes the top six difficult to penetrate for Niederreiter, who is likely looking for second line behind Parise, Vanek, Pominville, Koivu and Granlund. He'll face competition from Fontaine, or possibly Coyle or Zucker. He'll likely play at least partially on the third line but if he can win a top six spot early on we could see 25+ goals from the Swiss sniper.
If Niederreiter can play in the top six this season, or sees a significant increase in his TOI from last year, I'd expect to see at least 25 goals and 20 assists. Niederreiter has more experience scoring than assisting, and that is likely where the majority of his points will come from. It's safe to say Niederreiter will have gotten stronger and faster over the summer as he is still young, and should see an increased role from last year. If everything goes well, he could be a guy who nets 30+ goals, 50+ points, 150+ shots and 150+ hits.
He won't bring in many PIM (28 last year, 44 the year before), but is on a pretty good team that has allowed him to have a positive plus/minus over the passed two seasons (+2 last year, +12 in 13-14).
He could be available in the final few rounds of a deep leagues draft or as a free agent in smaller pools. If someone is going to draft him in your league make sure it's you as most people could forget about him. I never condone over-drafting though so don't be upset at me if you used your first rounder on him! When the pickings get slim and everyone is looking for their favourite sleeper picks, check where Niederreiter is.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to comment your fantasy SmartPicks! And check out my website for more fantasy talk and sens news!