Boo Who? Nieves looks to make an impact
The boos from Thursday nights 5-2 win versus Arizona had a far different tone than the previous ones from Monday’s loss versus San Jose. These boos had an uplifting tone, as Cristoval “Boo” Nieves, recently recalled from Hartford, registered his first three NHL points in his first regular season game at Madison Square Garden.
Nieves, with his parents in attendance, skated on a line with Pavel Buchnevich and Michael Grabner. It didn’t take long for him to get on the score sheet as he assisted on a first period goal by Buchnevich. Later, he added two more assists on Michael Grabner’s second period goal and another on Buchnevich’s second goal of the night.
“I don’t think every game is going to be like this,” Nieves told NHL.com. “It’s obviously the best league in the world and guys come to play every single night. Time will only tell.” Syracuse.com
The general consensus is that the Nieves recall from the AHL is a smart move. After running 11 forwards and 7 defense-men in previous games, Boo’s addition to the team seems like a welcome one in a place where the Rangers need it most. This allows Alain Vigneault to roll all four lines, along with keeping the defense in the flow of the game. His speed and agility down the middle versus Arizona was a welcoming sight in a season that has certainly not started in the Rangers’ favor.
Born in Baldwinsville, New York Nieves was given the name Cristoval, but was never called that as a kid. His mother Joanne gave him the nickname “Bugaboo” but shortened it to “Boo” and it’s stuck.
Known for his size and speed, Nieves stood out for his local USPHL Syracuse Stars. In 2005, Boo was named top player of the Bell Tournament in Ottawa, a get together of many of the best teams and prospects in North America.
“The one thing that continues to stick out about him is his unbelievable hockey sense,” said Steve Cibelli, who coached him in the Stars. “He found guys that were open. You said, ‘Ah, that’s not typically a 9-year-old play.’ Syracuse.com
Wherever he played, Nieves always displayed his talents of speed and a strong vision for the game. In his development, one of his main attributes that sets him apart from other forwards is his poise with the puck. Scouts have said that because of this confidence, he rarely ever makes a bad pass. Now, as an adult, he boasts the height of a burly hockey player, but lacks physicality even though that’s never been a detriment to his play.
Nieves played two years for at Kent School from 2010-2012, Nieves posted 78 points in 48 games; then 10 points in 13 games for the USHL’s Indiana Ice. Seeing the obvious skill and size, the New York Rangers selected Nieves 59th, in the second round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Similar to former Ranger Carl Hagelin, Nieves began his adult hockey career attending the University of Michigan; playing with teammates such as JT Compher, Andrew Copp, and Dylan Larkin. Nieves primarily played wing for the Wolverines and although Nieves only reached 10 goals once at his time in college (scored 10 goals in his final campaign), he seems to have created chances, rather than finishing them by posting 20 plus assists in three out of his four seasons for the Wolverines. Something that I’m sure Rangers scouts payed close attention to.
After wrapping up his collegiate career in 2015-16, Nieves signed a two year entry level deal with the Rangers, who then assigned him to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. In eight games at center, to end the 2015-16 campaign, his first go around at the position, resulted in two goals and three assists. The following season Nieves led the Wolf Pack rookies in offensive production by posting 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists) in 38 games; before being called up for one game with the Rangers.
All throughout his time within the Rangers organization, Nieves has always been overshadowed by players down the middle such as Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, and so forth. Every camp he has participated and left a good impression on the coaching staff with his agility, puck skills, and sound hockey mind. The only problem was, there was no place to put him. With the Rangers trading Derek Stepan and losing Oscar Lindberg this past summer and Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil being a couple years away, Nieves finally finds himself in a position to make an impact on the big club.
The Rangers are taking a hard look at Nieves. His speed, poise and skill is perfect in AV’s fast paced system. Nieves isn’t the caliber player of a Matthews or a McDavid, but what he provides to this team is stability down the middle. He has enough talent to hold his own on an NHL roster. Maybe, just maybe, him anchoring that fourth line with Buchnevich and Grabner sparks something of a domino effect. Where it provides the Rangers a balance that is something the rest of the team can work off of.
Nieves’ debut versus Arizona puts him off to a good start. All of Rangerstown hopes this positive start can continue, and going forward he might just materialize into something great.