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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Matt Nieto: A guy you should know

I neglected to mention him in my NCAA notes posted last night, but Boston University's Matt Nieto scored his first goal for the Terriers last week and is looking good out of the gate over on Commonwealth Ave.

Nieto's not big-- standing under 6-feet and weighing in at around 180 pounds, but he's a very heady offensive player. He's a nice skater with the hands and offensive instincts to be a scoring threat every time he hits the ice. He's one of these offensive zone predators who can do a lot of things with the puck and create on his own or for his linemates. Last season, he tallied 15 goals in 24 USHL games on a very good U.S. NTDP under-18 squad (he finished his combined USHL and tournament scoring run with 28 goals and 54 points for Team USA), so the potential for him to pile up the points is there.

Like Emerson Etem, Nieto's a Long Beach native who's had to spend much of his young life away from home and family pursuing his pro hockey dreams. Nieto and Etem are close pals, having played together growing up in local YMCA roller hockey circles and on the L.A. Selects development program before the two headed east with both going the prep route- Etem at Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota, Nieto at the Salisbury School in (Groton) Connecticut. They spent one season together in the NTDP ('08-09) before Etem hooked on with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL in '09-10.

He was named the tournament MVP in last February's Six Nations tournament in Minsk, tallying a hat trick against Team Czech Republic. On the downside, he was also one of the players involved in the off-ice imbroglio that saw him suspended from the NTDP along with New Jersey Devils 2nd-rounder Jon Merrill. He's probably learned from the mistake of being involved in what was, if you got the straight scoop from scouts (and I pretty much heard the same story from several sources in and outside of the NHL), an ugly prank that got way out of hand. Anyway-- Nieto has the benefit of having an entire season to put it all behind him and focus on successful hockey at BU, but I would imagine he'll field questions about it when the Draft Combine rolls around.

Nieto and fellow frosh blueliner Adam Clendening are both gold medal-winners from last spring's Under-18 World Champion Team USA squad (and Nieto copped another one in '09) trying to make an impact in the Hockey East. Nieto (1 goal in three games) and Clendening (1 assist in same amount) are gaining some notice and if they can continue to progress, you could see both land somewhere in the first round. Either way, neither is likely slipping out of the second.

Speed kills. Nieto with the USNTDP last year:

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