It's not often that a player drafted in the second round goes relatively unnoticed, but that's more or less the (lack of) story regarding Boo Nieves after he was drafted 59th overall in the 2012 draft. He didn't suit up for the U.S. at the World Juniors in either of the last two years. After a decent freshman season at the University of Michigan (yes, Pierre, with Red Berenson), he had a brutal sophomore season which was only saved by his 12 points in the final 10 games of the season. Even accounting for that, three goals and 19 assists in 34 games was nothing to get excited over. What was the cause of such a poor showing? For one, there was some bad luck involved. Nieves had a shooting percentage around 13 percent in his freshman season, but that dipped south of five percent last year.
There's certainly a large mental component to it as well. His offensive struggles forced him down the lineup, and he didn't handle it well. At least, that's what Rangers Head of Player Personnel Gordie Clark told HockeyProspect.com in an interview that I highly recommend listening to.
"I think he spent too much time... 'oh woe is me,'" Clark said of Nieves.
So how did the Rangers intervene? By sending Adam Graves to Michigan.
"(Graves) knows how to talk to these guys and be brutally honest with them about what happened. Boo had nobody to blame except himself," Clark said.
That reality check from Graves surely played a role in Nieves finishing the season on a strong note, and Clark said that Nieves worked out particularly hard this summer.
It's showing in his play. Michigan retained their top centers from last season and added highly-touted Red Wings draft pick Dylan Larkin as well. The result was Nieves being moved to the wing. Unlike last season, however, he's turned his situation into a positive. He has seven points in 11 games, and he's probably unlucky to not have a few more points.
It's about more than the points, though. Whereas Nieves was very soft away from the puck last season, he's now properly utilizing his 6'3, 200-pound frame. He's engaging physically, battling for pucks and throwing hits. He scored this highlight reel goal last weekend against Penn State. He also made a number of fantastic passes in the offensive zone that should have been buried by his teammates.
While I had never written Nieves off, he had not done much in a long time to particularly stand out. He's changing that perception quickly with the way he is playing this season. He's an exceptional skater and has great vision with the puck on his stick. It's the tactical aspects of his game that need work, but he's starting to figure it out. Junior year of college is usually the bench mark for determining how a college player is developing, and the early results on Nieves are all positive. He still has a lot to work on and will probably need to go stay at Michigan through his senior season. But he's no longer looking like just another prospect in the system and is instead making his case for being a legitimately exciting prospect in the organization.
Keep reading for some other prospect notes.
The Hartford Wolf Pack won 4-3 in a shootout against the Albany Devils on Wednesday. Justin Vaive deflected home an Oscar Lindberg shot and Danny Kristo scored off a rebound in the first period. However, a poor turnover from Mat Bodie in the defensive zone led to an Albany goal by Darcy Zajac. Joey Crabb scored in the second period to make it 3-1, but two late goals in in the third period by Joe Whitney tied it up at three. Chris Bourque tripped up Mike Sislo in 3v3 overtime and a penalty shot was awarded.
The game went to a shootout, and Skapski was also unbeaten in the three shootout attempts. Skapski developed a reputation in Western Canada as someone who is incredibly difficult to beat on penalty shots, and it carried over in his first AHL test. Danny Kristo, meanwhile, scored the lone Hartford shootout goal to win the game.
The Wolf Pack host the Norfolk Admirals tonight.
After missing about six weeks with recurring shoulder and back issues, 2014 fourth-round pick Ryan Mantha, a defenseman, dressed up for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL as a right winger tonight. Why? I don't really know. Bizarrely, it worked. The IceDogs beat the Belleville Bulls 9-2, and Mantha (wearing 22) scored on a deflection from the top of the crease.
About 10 individual Rangers' prospect plus the Hartford Wolf Pack and Greenville Road Warriors in action tonight, so I'll have another prospect update tomorrow. I do my best to give balanced coverage of the entire prospect pool. That being said, I'd appreciate input from the readers as far as what players you feel you haven't read about recently or what players you would like to see more information on.