Cristoval “Boo” Nieves signed with the New York Rangers after his four-year collegiate career with the University of Michigan came to a close. According to Steve Zipay of Newsday the deal is worth $755,000 annually for two years starting in the 2016-17 season.
NYR confirm Nieves signing. Two years entry level. Averaging $755,000
— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) March 28, 2016
For the remainder of the season Nieves will skate with the Hartford Wolf Pack on an amateur tryout, and he will get a chance to make the Rangers’ roster out of training camp. Nieves is joining a Wolf Pack team that is in the midst of a tough playoff race, and it remains to be seen how he will be utilized.
Hartford’s center depth just got a little deeper with the addition of Nieves, but what can the team expect of him?
Nieves was drafted No. 59 overall in 2012 and initially he projected to be a top-six forward with an offensive slant. Here’s what Nieves accomplished in his four seasons with the Wolverines.
Statistically Nieves was above average, with 110 points in 144 games played. What did him in overall was a down sophomore season after a solid freshman season.
In a telephone conversation Nieves said, “After freshman year I came in thinking way too much. Thinking I need to do more here, and I need to get more points in this spot and so on. I was getting inside my own head. I wasn’t where I wanted to be.”
Basically Nieves placed grand expectations on himself and was unable to deliver to the level he wanted, but he course corrected in his junior and senior seasons. Stylistically Nieves is a speedy forward with decent size at 6’3″ and 200 pounds, and he covers a lot of ground with his reach and stride.
Here is @boonieves at his best. When he feels like it, he can just take games over.https://t.co/chgc0oZaUp
— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) March 28, 2016
In that regard he should fit in well with the Wolf Pack, as a two-way forward who can provide offense and strong defensive play. He admitted that it is easy to get caught up trying to make a difference offensively, but there are other things that happen over the course of the game.
The Rangers’ prospect takes pride in how he’s developed his defensive game, and he certainly feels that playing under legendary coach Red Berenson allowed him to develop into a better all-around forward. “Coach (Berenson) is on me to make sure I am making an impact every shift,” said Nieves.
During the 2015-16 season, play in his own zone became paramount, and he became a very important player for Michigan at the faceoff circle.
Nieves took 313 more faceoffs in his senior year than he did during his junior year, and ended up putting up his best year at the faceoff dot. Going forward, the Rangers could use a proficient two-way forward who can win key draws, and early on Nieves should be able to showcase that ability in Hartford .
On the main roster, Dominic Moore is aging, and when he moves on New York will need someone who can win faceoffs with consistency. Of all the prospects in the system, it is fair to say that Nieves best projects to be able to fill that role. He’s a great skater with good reach, defensively sound, and so far he’s shown he can be counted on to provide offense.
Obviously Nieves will need to prove his ability can translate to the pro game, and Hartford will be a good test. Overall Nieves’ stock may be a little lower because of how he played in college relative to his draft position, but it is completely possible that he turns heads with the Wolf Pack. With the exception of a single season Nieves was consistent offensively, and defensively his game has only improved with age.
Stepping onto the ice with Hartford will be a new challenge, but certainly one Nieves will embrace with open arms.
Stats via Elite Prospects and College Hockey Inc.