I recently had the opportunity to interview prep school hockey stud, Cristoval “Boo” Nieves. The Baldwinsville, NY native is currently preparing for his senior season at The Kent School in Connecticut. Just last week the NHL’s Central Scouting Service (CSS) released its early season “Watch List” for Tier II Canadian and US junior, midget, and US high school/prep leagues. In fact the 6′ 2″, 185 lbs. center was the only ‘A’ grade player on the list and according to some NHL scouts, Nieves is a potential first round selection for this year’s 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
“Boo” has been turning scouts, coaches, and agents heads for some time now. His exceptional hockey skills were evident in his youth playing days with the AAA Syracuse Nationals (formerly known as the Stars) program where he amassed 30 goals and 42 assists in 60 games during the 2009-10 campaign playing for its U16 midget team. Of course the nearby Canadian neighbors took notice as the OHL’s (Ontario Hockey League) Niagara IceDogs drafted Nieves in 10th round of the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.
Nieves had another offensive explosion in the New England prep school leagues this past season with Kent. He helped lead his team to the Founders League Championship and runner-up finish at the Division I New England Prep School Hockey Championship. In only 23 games, Nieves managed to find the back of the net 43 times amazingly while chipping in 18 helpers for the highly touted prep program. He was also selected this past summer to USA Hockey’s U18 Team that participated at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. An annual event held each August for national under-18 teams from around the world. Take a glimpse as Nieves (#18) snipes one for Team USA vs. Russia at the junior tourney held in Slovakia.
Kent is coached by former NHLer and University of Michigan standout, Matt Herr. Herr was a 4th round selection by the Washington Capitals in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft as well captaining and winning two NCAA Hockey Championships as a Wolverine. Kent has quickly become one of the elite hockey acts among the US prep school circuit.
So NHL Prospects Examiner gave “Boo” 10 questions to better understand his past, present, and hockey future.
NHL Prospects Examiner: So let’s get this out in the open. Where did the “Boo” thing come about in your name? Were you a big fan of The Count from Sesame Street as a kid or do you love Halloween…haha
Boo Nieves: To be honest, I’m not sure my parents have not told me why. It’s more of a hockey name, school wise I am known as Cristoval.
Examiner: You are a Syracuse native and played for Stars (now Nationals) as a kid in your youth hockey days. How did you land at The Kent School (Kent, CT)?
BN: Yes I played for the Stars/Nationals for most of youth hockey. I knew that I needed to move away from home in order to keep developing as a hockey player, therefore my family, advisor, and I decided that prep school would be the right route. Knowing that coach Herr went to Michigan was the captain and won a few national championships really made my decision of Kent a rather easy one.
Examiner: Last year Kent lost a close one in the New England Prep Championship game. What’s your feeling about the team this season? Has coach Matt Herr made it your quest to lead the team to the promise land?
BN: Last year we did come up just a little short in the last game. This year we want to focus on many of the same things as last year, playing hard every game because in prep school each game counts when you’re playing a 25 game season. Expectation wise, we would love nothing more than to win the championship this year but we will have to take it game by game to be successful. Kent has really showed me how to live independently. I have learned to manage my time, balance school and sports, and will make the college transition much easier.
Examiner: I know some scouts and hockey personnel already questioned your return to Kent and the prep league. What was your reasoning behind it? The education piece, social setting, or high-profile prep hockey program.
BN: I chose to return to Kent for my senior year because coach Herr has helped me take my game to another level. Small things like, going to the net hard, finishing checks, and being more aggressive all over the ice.
Examiner: Speaking of your next step, it seems Ann Arbor & the University of Michigan is in your near future. Obviously you know Coach Herr played at UM and won a couple of NCAA Championships under the legendary Red Berenson. Did he influence your decision in any way as I’m sure many D1s were lined up with letters?
BN: I was already committed before I went to Kent.
Examiner: When will we see you on campus? Any stops slated for the USHL or EJHL before arriving at Yost Arena? A lot of times the college ranks want that extra year of seasoning after prepping now.
BN: I will be attending Michigan in the fall of 2012.
Examiner: Just a few weeks ago the Wolverines received another commit from a high-profile recruit, Jacob Trouba (USTNDP). It’s still early as Michigan in the past has lost top recruits like Campbell and Gibson to the OHL. Are you just committed to Michigan or are you committed committed to Michigan?
BN: I am committed, committed to the University of Michigan, not for leverage in another league, but to attend school and play hockey there.
Examiner: Tim Connolly (Maple Leafs) also a Syracuse local opted for the OHL. Have you been persued by the CHL ranks at all in trying to get you to de-committ from Michigan and continue your career north of the boarder knowing that it is your draft year?
BN: Yes, but my advisor, Alec Schall, and father do a great job handling all of that for me. I want to play college hockey.
Examiner: I saw you play this summer in Rochester at the Select 17s Camp and you impressed the coaches to earn a spot on Team USA’s U18 Team that competed in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Tell me about that whole experience with hockey, the talent level of the other players, and sites of Europe?
BN: It was a different experience but one I definitely will never forget. The talent level was great; playing teams from other countries was new to me but it enjoyable. As a team we actually got to see a few castles that still stand around Slovakia and the Czech Republic which was great.
Examiner: Scouts have all sorts of grades and analysis on your game, is there anything they maybe missing or you would like to add?
BN: I feel that I skate well, I have a quick release, I see the ice well and make good decisions. I like the way Zach Parise plays, quick, hard, and relentless. Especially as a smaller player, he finds a way to get the job done. Finally, thanks to all my followers on Twitter, @boonieves.
As most junior and college ranks are in full stride now it will be exciting to see the prep leagues of New England get into action soon. There is no doubt teams will be gunning for Kent School and Nieves every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. Although Nieves has taken his game each year at each level to new heights as making the grade is what he does best. There certainly will be no scared teams at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft as each will be looking to select “Boo” — Cristoval Nieves that is.
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