Despite neither player scoring during their first international games at the 2013 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp yesterday (both loses), Rangers prospects Christoval “Boo” Nieves (2012 – 5th) and Brady Skjei (2012 – 1st) impressed those on hand with other aspects of their games…
Nieves' explosive speed revealed on the PK as he stole puck at blue line- off to the races. 0-60 in about 1.5 strides.
— Kirk Luedeke (@kluedeke29) August 4, 2013
Best players today for USA Blue IMO: Carrick, O'Regan, Kerdiles, Skjei. Good flashes from DeAngelo, Barber, Lane. #NJEC
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) August 4, 2013
Before camp began on Saturday, Chris Peters at the United States of Hockey gave these evaluations on Nieves and Skjei…
"He showed more of a willingness to pay the price for offense, put on a bunch of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame and still has some really strong puck skills. Gone are the knocks that he was only a perimeter player and now he’s looking like a quality prospect. He posted 21 assists in a tough season for Michigan and very well could be a top-six playmaking winger for this junior team."
Peters adds that Nieves will seriously push for a roster spot on the team.
"Skjei is one of the best skaters in camp and utilizes the bigger ice well. He has enough offense to contribute a few points here and there (even though it never really materialized at Minnesota last year), but is probably better in his own end. I think he’ll be watched very closely throughout the camp and the first half of the year. If he can play at his best, Skjei brings a skill set the team will need to try and defend the gold medal at the WJC."
Peters adds that Skjei will be given every opportunity to make the team.
…with guys like Kreider, Miller and McIlrath making the jump to the professional level, Nieves and Skjei are part of the next crop of Rangers prospects who fans should be keeping an eye on. These two are likely to be key cogs in any future success the Rangers franchise might have.
…of the two, I'm more excited about Nieves. Big, tough forward with great hands and speed. Nothing not to like there. Defensemen always take longer to develop, but Skjei's freshman year struggles in Minnesota has soured me on him a bit, so I'd love to see a bounce back sophomore season from him as it could be the determining factor if he's playing in the World Junior Championships or not.