Rookie forward Matt Nieto wasn’t expected to stick with the San Jose Sharks full-time this season. A few games here and there as an injury call-up? Sure. But a top-nine winger on a regular basis? Surprising, to say the least.
That tells you a lot about how well Nieto has played. He managed to crack one of the NHL‘s best rosters and get upwards of 12 minutes of ice time nightly. At just 21-years old, Nieto is the team’s second-youngest player behind fellow rookie Tomas Hertl. He’s practically a kid, but you’d never know it from watching him play.
In 47 games, Nieto has potted six goals and added nine assists for 15 points. He’d likely have twice as many helpers if he spent more time playing on a line with capable goal-scorers. Nieto’s offensive production hasn’t been spectacular, but the amount of quality scoring chances he has managed to create for himself and his linemates is remarkable. The California native possesses impressive speed and is a gifted playmaker. When he fills out a bit and starts getting more ice time on one of the top two lines, look out.
The Sharks drafted Nieto in the second round of the 2011 Entry Draft after he put up 23 points in 39 matches as a freshman at Boston University. He went on to register 42 points the following season and then set a personal best for goals the year after that with 18.
Nieto’s offensive skills made him a prolific scorer in college and have translated into success at the NHL level. He’s on pace for just under 30 points over the course of a full season, and that’s while playing primarily third-line minutes with very little, if any, power play time. Nieto’s potential is sky-high and it won’t be long until he’s a fixture in San Jose’s top six. His performance thus far this season is worthy of an “A”.