Friday, June 7, 2013

Some Good News

Brady Skjei (

No sorry Glen Sather has not informed me as to who he plans to hire to take over as the next coach of the New York York Rangers. But USA Hockey did send out the invites to their annual summer evaluation camp on Thursday and the Ranger's top picks from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft were both given invites.

Brady Skjei (2012 1st) and Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (2012 2nd) will be spending part of their summer up at Lake Placid as they attempt to get a leg up on making the 2014 USA Under-20 squad. For Skjei, the camp is doubly important as this years coach of Team USA will also be Skjei's coach at Minnesota, Don Lucia.

For the Rangers it does say something that both of their top prospects from the 2013 draft earned invites. Both prospects are coming off their freshmen seasons at their respective colleges, Skjei for the already mentioned Minnesota while Nieves attended Michigan.

Skjei had an up and down season for Minnesota but dressed for 36 games on a Golden Gopher team that was considered a favorite of the 2013 NCAA title but fell short. I consider Skjei's season to be better than others did in large part because of the expectations on Minnesota as a national contender.

Yes Skjei was a healthy scratch from the Minnesota lineup on a couple of occasions but one should view how a freshman like Skjei was getting into the lineup on a regular basis as well as when he did play, Skjei was paired up with Minnesota's best offensive defensemen. I also considered how Skjei when he was playing for USNTDP during the 2011-2012 season was partnered with Seth Jones who is going to be selected in the top 5 of this year's NHL Entry Draft.

The Rangers did not select Skjei to become the next Brian Leetch but most likely because his career has been in many ways like what Ryan McDonagh's was when he was playing for Wisconsin. It will be very interesting to watch how Skjei performs at the camp.

Cristoval Nieves (Michigan Wolverines)

The 2nd biggest surprise of the 2012-2013 Ranger prospect season had to be the play of Cristoval "Boo" Nieves as I don't think anyone even the Rangers expected Nieves to have the season he did for Michigan. Nieves led the Wolverines with 21 assists as he had an overall 8-21-29 season on a Michigan team which yes fell short of making the NCAA tournament for the first time in 23 years.

But Michigan put on a charge in the late season where they were unbeaten in 9 straight games before losing in the finals of the CCHA. Gordie Clark correctly called what kind of player Nieves was going to be when we talked during the season.

Clark on Nieves:

I kind of knew that they (the Michigan staff) liked him for the same reasons we did. A lot of people were going in to see him play and he gets a lot of breakaways at prep school with his speed and his size.

Right now he is not a finisher but we were not looking at him as a finisher as we thought his playmaking was very special to go along with his 6’3 size and his superior skating. Maybe a lot of teams had a problem with his “no scoring ability” but I don’t know.

Nieves is a 6'3 ball of lightning as his skating for a big man is above excellent but Nieves in my book doesn't get enough credit for his ability to read the ice in front of him. Nieves for a 19 year has a lot more maturity than anyone would have expected. For all his playmaking skills, Nieves is also strong on the defensive end as well.

With both Minnesota and Michigan in the new "Big Ten" hockey conference then Ranger fans will have a chance to see both prospects going up against each other next season. Who know maybe they will also get to see them as USA Hockey teammates as well.

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