2009-10: Cristoval Nieves was one of the top forwards at USA Hockey’s Select 15 Festival and skated for the Syracuse Junior Nationals midget team. In 60 games for the Nationals he scored 30 goals with 42 assists and had 70 penalty minutes. Nieves committed to playing college hockey at Michigan in 2012-13. He was selected by Niagara in the 10th round (182nd overall) of the 2010 OHL Priority Draft.
2010-11: Nieves transferred to the Kent School in Connecticut for his junior year. He scored 11 goals with 28 assists in 27 games for Kent – which reached the New England Prep School Championship game, falling 2-1 to Milton Academy. Nieves had 1 goal and 2 assist in Kent’s win over Salisbury in the semifinals.
2011-12: Nieves skated for Team USA at the 2011 U18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament and played for the USHL’s Indiana Ice in addition to completing his senior season at the Kent School. Nieves scored 1 goal with 3 assists and was plus-four in three games for Team USA. In 13 USHL games with Indiana he scored 2 goals with 8 assists and was an even plus/minus. Nieves scored 7 goals with 32 assists in 26 games for Kent School. He was invited to the NHL Draft Combine and was ranked 27th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2012 NHL Draft.
2012-13: Nieves, a freshman, was one of four players to skate in all 40 games for Michigan. Playing alongside sophomore Phil Di Giuseppe (Carolina) for much of the season, he scored 8 goals with 21 assists and was -5 with 21 penalty minutes. The Wolverines finished seventh in the CCHA and failed to win 20 games for the first time since head coach Red Berenson’s third season in 1986-87 but went 8-0-1 in nine games at the end of the season; nearly earning an NCAA berth before falling to Notre Dame, 3-1, in the CCHA championship game.
2013-14: Nieves was second on the University of Michigan with 19 assists, one behind team leader J.T. Compher. He scored 3 goals and was +3 with 18 penalty minutes in 34 games as a sophomore for the Wolverines. Michigan finished third in the Big Ten in the conference’s inaugural season but was upset by Penn State in the conference tournament and did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
2014-15: Nieves was the fifth-leading scorer for Michigan in his junior season. He scored 7 goals with 21 assists and was +3 with 18 penalty minutes in 35 games. Michigan finished third in the Big Ten and advanced to the conference tournament championship game but did not receive an NCAA Tournament bid after falling to first-place Minnesota, 3-2.
2015-16: Nieves began his pro career with a flourish — recording six points in his first four AHL games after joining New York Rangers’ affiliate Hartford following his senior season at the University of Michigan. Signed by New York to a two-year entry-level contract on March 28th after the Wolverines were eliminated from the 2016 NCAA Tournament by eventual national champion North Dakota, Nieves made his AHL debut in a game against Hershey on April 1st, finishing with an assist. He had an assist the next day against Portland and scored two goals with an assist in a game at Springfield on April 8th. Overshadowed by the exploits of freshman Kyle Connor in his senior season at Michigan, Nieves scored 10 goals with 21 assists and was +9 with 18 penalty minutes in 35 games. The Wolverines finished second to Minnesota in the Big 10 regular season but defeated the Gophers, 5-3, in the conference tournament championship game to earn an NCAA automatic berth. Michigan defeated Notre Dame, 3-2, in overtime in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals before falling to the Fighting Sioux, 5-2.
Nieves is a skilled forward with good speed and deft playmaking skills. Although he has the height, Nieves is still a bit on the skinny side and will need to bulk up to better handle the rigors of the pro game. He'll also need to show that he can compete well at a higher level of competition, but most signs point to Nieves becoming a creative offensive player with top-six potential.
Nieves made his pro debut with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack in April 2016 following his senior season at the University of Michigan. Signed to a two-year entry-level contract by the Rangers on March 28th, he projects as the type of second or third line forward who can play either wing or center and can play in all situations.