Niederreiter scratched second straight game

When the Islanders drafted Nino Niederreiter fifth overall in the 2010 draft, they had high hopes for the talented Swiss winger.

Following his first training camp, Niederreiter stuck on with the team for nine games before the Islanders sent him back to his junior club, the Portland WinterHawks of the Western Hockey League, for more seasoning.

Niederreiter dominated in his final season with Portland, recording 41 goals and 29 assists in 55 games for the Winterhawks, and appeared poised to make the leap to the NHL.

So what happened?

A pre-season groin injury derailed the start of Niederreiter's 2011-12 campaign and the former first round pick has struggled to find his place on the roster ever since.

Limited to only one goal and an average 9:23 in ice time in 39 games for the Islanders this season, Niederreiter finds himself a healthy scratch for the second straight game with the Islanders facing the Flyers in Philadelphia on Thursday.

It's been a puzzling situation for Niederreiter, who spoke out in frustration Thursday.

"Of course I'm happy and proud to be an Islanders all year. But I'm p----- off I can't play," Niederreiter told Newsday's Arthur Staple Thursday.

The situation begs the question: is this a case of a player who has underachieved while facing lofty expectations? Or is this another example of poor development by an Islanders club that has seen it's "rebuild" stall yet again?

Three points out of last place in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders are bound to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season. And who knows whether a top draft pick can be a consolation to a downtrodden fan base any longer?

For every John Tavares and Travis Hamonic that has developed into a bona fide NHL star-in-the-making, the Islanders have seen many of their top picks -- Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan, Niederreiter -- struggle with the transition.

The Islanders had the chance to send Niederreiter back to his junior team this season, just as it had a similar opportunity to send Bailey back during his rookie campaign. By not doing so, they might have hampered both players' development.

What does that mean for the team's future?