Nieves’ prime attraction is his rare combination of size and speed. Size can’t be taught – and at 6’3, Nieves stands tall above the competition. His skating game is truly a wonder to behold – almost certainly the fastest draft-bound prep student, Nieves has earned comparisons to the speediest in this class including Pontus Εberg, Nail Yakupov and Andreas Athanasiou . With plus-acceleration; a long, graceful stride and an elite top-gear Nieves has the wheels to excel in the NHL.
Offensively, he projects more as a distributor than a sniper. While he has a heavy shot and a solid release, there has been some mention of difficulties finishing the golden opportunities he creates with his anticipation and speed. He only scored seven goals and thirty-nine points in 26 games with Kent – not exactly prodigious numbers for a player with purported first-round potential against the ‘middling’ competition of the high school circuit.
With his big frame and skating game, teams want to see more of a commitment to taking the body than he’s shown thus far. Furthermore, many teams wanted to see how Nieves fares against better competition (he joined the USHL’s Indiana Ice after his Prep season was done, grabbing ten points in thirteen games) with the hope that his game and production didn’t suffer. His performance – neither poor nor eye-grabbing – leaves many questions still unanswered.
Nieves’ combination of tantalizing abilities and concerning issues will likely see him bounce around between the late-first and second-rounds of mock drafts, such is the fate of boom-or-bust prospects… Some team enamored with his size/speed combination could take him high as the early twenties, but he’s a safer bet to fall to the thirty to fifty range.
Ideal Fits: Teams in the second round looking for a potential-heavy forward: San Jose, Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas
Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because he has all the tools to be a solid (or better) forward at the NHL level; because his upside is arguably the highest of the likely second-round prospects.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because his ability to put the puck in the net is a major question mark; because despite his size and speed he’s far from a ‘safe pick’; because seven goals against prep competition doesn’t seem to make sense.
Strengths: Explosivity, Skating, Size, Playmaking
Weaknesses/Concerns: Physicality, Finishing, Consistency, “Toolbox”