Boo Nieves looks to turn heads, steal a roster spot

Nieves (NYR)

Nieves (NYR)

Nieves Looks to Impress

The Rangers spent the off-season stocking up on young talent, and on Tuesday another well-marinated prospect made his way into the lineup, as Boo Nieves made his NHL debut.

Nieves, 22, was chosen by the Rangers in the second round of the 2012 draft. He spent his developmental years in the NCAA, playing for the Michigan Wolverines.

From those who know him best

I spent Monday evening talking to people involved with the U of Michigan ice hockey club, to get a sense of what Nieves brings to the table. The feedback I received about both Nieves the player, and the person, was overwhelmingly positive.

First: Nieves’ best asset is by far his skating ability. The kid can flat-out scoot. One Michigan alumn told me he was the best “stop and go” skater he had seen come through the program since former Ranger Carl Hagelin donned the blue and gold. That’s saying something for sure. Both Nieves and Hagelin posses an uncanny ability to work with their legs behind opposing teams’ goal lines.

Temper Expectations

Now let me temper expectations. Nieves is by no means a world-beater offensively. At Michigan, Nieves did see increased production every season he played in. His best season, senior year, Nieves tallied 10 goals and 21 assists in 35 games. Not exactly all-star offensive numbers. (The team’s leading scorer, Kyle Connor, finished with 71 points that season just to get an idea of where the offensive stars typically come in)

It was said by one former beat writer on the Michigan Daily staff that Nieves has a sneaky-quick shot release, and that he used it to surprise opposing goalies from time to time.

But where young Nieves will earn his pay is on the penalty kill. For most of his junior and senior seasons at UM, Nieves was the team’s primary PK center. He is a prototypical bottom six, shut down center in this regard.

Opportunity Knocks

Injuries to two mainstays, Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnveich, have given Nieves a chance to strut his stuff. While it’s uncertain exactly how he’ll be used, one thing is for sure: Head Coach Alain Vigneault loves his two-way fourth liners. That’s exactly the type of role Nieves will be expected to fill for now.

Nieves’ speed and prowess in the defensive zone is exactly what Vigneualt saw in his game this preseason. Vigneault said that the speed and size of Nieves was intriguing, and that according to scouts, he was the best player on the ice in early games with AHL Hartford. AV added that Nieves would be “in the back of his mind” as the season progressed.

What Nieves brings to the table aligns well with what the bench boss likes in a bottom-six forward. Should Nieves make the most of his opportunity, we’re lead to believe he’ll earn as many chances to become an every day NHLer as any young forward could ask.

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