Two Rangers prospects went up against each other in college on Friday night and it was ‘Boo’ Nieves that came out on the right side of the elimination game as Michigan beat Steven Fogarty’s Notre Dame 3-2 in OT. Nieves assisted on Michigan’s third period game tying goal (scored by blue chip NHL prospect Zach Werenski) to help prolong Michigan’s season. Fogarty is now free to sign with the Rangers as his season is over following the loss.
Nieves meanwhile has put up his best stat line in college with 31 points (10 goals) in 34 games. Nieves has never quite dominated in any of his four seasons but has been remarkably consistent. A good skater and a big body, Nieves is a pass first center and can definitely be an asset with his playmaking ability in the pro game – he remains an intriguing prospect.
One of the main questions facing Nieves as a NHL prospect is whether his good (but never great) numbers have been the by-product of having played on Michigan teams that featured the likes of Kyle Connor, Zach Werenski, Dylan Larkin and Jacob Trouba. Nieves has always been a productive player for Michigan but he’s never really been able to stand out on several talented squads.
Fogarty ends his college career also hitting career highs. While he is known for being a defense first player and one with strong leadership traits to boot (he’s the Notre Dame captain), Fogarty did manage to set a career high in points and goals this year with 23 (10 goals). The Rangers will be intrigued whether his good size (6’3, 212 lbs) and defensive conscience make him a legitimate NHL prospect or whether he’ll top out as a minor pro.
While the one position the Rangers are relatively stacked at (at least for the foreseeable future) is indeed center, both Fogarty and Nieves and their respective development’s will have gained in importance over the past season or so as multiple times the Rangers have traded assets and prospects away to take their shot(s) at a Cup run. At some point, some of the Rangers remaining prospects will have to help the New York varsity.
Perhaps Pavel Buchnevich aside, the Rangers don’t have any sure thing offensively on the horizon. With Fogarty seen as more of a defensive forward and Nieves being difficult to project at the next level the Rangers perhaps have even less that they can count on for offense at the highest level. With that said, Fogarty could be the natural heir to Dominic Moore if he develops well when he arrives in Hartford and if this season has taught us anything an unreliable (or inconsistent) fourth line can be a legitimate Achilles heel.
The Rangers would love Nieves to become a legitimate option for New York whether it’s on the wing or at center. Nieves developing into a NHL player for the Rangers could allow the team to get creative with the current set of forwards as they (eventually) seek to address the blueline over the coming couple of off-seasons (don’t expect a complete overhaul this summer). Watching Nieves and Fogarty enter professional hockey will be an interesting watch for Rangers fans. All of a sudden, a lot could be riding on the pair of college standouts.
"Rangers’ prospects head to head in college and beyond",