“Fearsome Young Sharks” Prospect Profile – Matthew Nieto

Photo courtesy of Alexander Zimmermann {@Alex_Z_Sharkie}

On the second day of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the San Jose Sharks moved up 12 spots in the second round by trading their second round pick {59th overall} as well as their third round pick in 2012 to the Florida Panthers for their second round pick {47th overall} and selected Boston University forward Matthew Nieto.

“One of my assets is my speed,” said Nieto in a June 25 interview with Tony Khing for the Sharks website.  “I play my best when I use it in all situations.  I’m definitely an offensive player, but I’m reliable on my end and like to consider myself as a good two-way player as well.”

Raised in a neighborhood of Long Beach, Calif., where gang activity was rampant and a part of daily life, Nieto was able to resist the temptations of the streets by focusing his time and energy on developing his hockey skills.

“Matthew started at age three,” said Jessie Nieto, Matt’s dad, in an interview with John Raffel for a Nov. 2008 usahockey.com article.  “He got started on inline skates.  His older sister had a pair of inline skates and he begged me for a pair.  At three years old, they didn’t have any that small so I bought him some skates that were probably twice the size of his feet.  He never took them off.  He slept with them in bed.”

“One day, my dad – his grandfather – bought him a plastic hockey stick and a ball.  That was all she wrote.  He started playing around the house in his skates outside and with the hockey ball.”

Vouching for his father, Matt stated in the Khing article that the Disney movies, The Mighty Ducks, were a huge inspiration for him as he would watch the movies and re-enact what was happening with the stick his grandfather had given him.

Seeing how enthusiastic Matt was about hockey and how much he wanted to be a hockey player, Jessie and his wife Mary inquired around the area to see if there were any roller hockey programs for kids that small and found out the local YMCA had an inline program.

“I signed up at the YMCA and played roller hockey there for a couple of years,” said Nieto in a Nov. 2010 interview with mayorsmanor.com.  “From there, I went to ice hockey at age five and didn’t want to go back to roller because I just loved the ice.”

After falling in love with ice hockey, Nieto spent four years with the rising California hockey factory known as the LA Selects/LA Hockey Club {LAHC}, which Nieto credits as helping to shape the player he has become today.

Sandy Gasseau is probably the best coach I ever played for in California,” said Nieto in an interview with DJ Powers for a Dec. 2010 hockeysfuture.com article.  “I played for him for a number of years.  I took private lessons with Sandy and he’s a really great guy.  I also have to give credit to the players that I played with like Emerson Etam {who was also a roller hockey teammate of Nieto’s along with Rocco Grimaldi} and Beau Bennett that have done a lot for me too.”

Having NHL aspirations, Nieto made the difficult decision to leave home at the age of 14 and took his talents all the way to the east coast, where he spent his sophomore year at The Salisbury School in Connecticut.

“I was away from home at such as young age,” said Nieto in the Khing article.  “Leaving home and my family at that age is not very easy.”

After a one-and-done year at The Salisbury School, Nieto traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., where he joined the US National Team Development Program {USNTDP} and helped guide TEAM USA to back-to-back gold medals at the International Ice Hockey Federation {IIHF} U-18 World Junior Championships in 2009 and 2010.

Nieto led the USNTDP in scoring during the 2008-09 season as he registered 67 points on 26 goals and 41 assists in 64 games played, 51 of which were played with the U-17 team before getting called up to the U-18’s just prior to the 2009 U-18 World Junior Championships, where he scored four goals in seven games.

Nieto’s biggest goal came in the gold medal game as he scored Team USA’s second goal in a 5-0 victory over Russia in front of a home crowd in Fargo, N.D.

“It was a great feeling,” said Nieto in an interview with Chris Peters for a Nov. 2009 usahockeymagazine.com article.  “The crowd was going crazy.  That was definitely a highlight of my career.”

Nieto finished tied for third on the U-18 squad in scoring for the 2009-10 season with 54 points on 28 goals and 26 assists in 61 games played.  Once his time with USNTDP concluded, Nieto did not want to miss out on the college experience and chose to play this past season at Boston University over Boston College and the WHL {Tri-City Americans held his rights}.

“I visited Boston at a young age and I just fell in love with the city,” said Nieto in his mayorsmanor.com interview.  “I thought this school was the best option for me.  Obviously the WHL was an option as well.  However, I decided to go play against older, more mature guys, who are stronger and faster.”

Nieto’s primary reason for choosing Boston University was the opportunity to play for head coach Jack Parker.

“Playing for Coach Parker is unbelievable,” said Nieto in the Powers article.  “He’s a good guy and does a great job of getting the best out of his players.  He really pushes you to give it your all every shift.  Coach Parker always stresses the importance of school too and he makes sure that you’re doing well both on and off the ice.”

However, not everything was peaches and sunshine for Nieto at Boston University as like all freshmen, Nieto had to make the adjustment to playing against stronger guys at the collegiate level.

“Any time you go to a new league, there’s going to be an adjustment period, and that’s what I went through,” said Nieto in an interview with Scott McLaughlin for a June 25 collegehockeynews.com article.  “Once I got it figured out, I was very successful.  I started playing with confidence and got more comfortable, and that really affected my play.”

Taking full advantage of being able to use the Boston University facilities at all times of the day, Nieto worked on his shot when bored, and before and after practice.  The hours of extra ice time paid off as Nieto went on a scoring tear in the Terriers final 27 games, registering 21 points on nine goals and 12 assists, finishing seventh among Hockey East rookies in points {23} and tied for fourth in goals {10}.

Nieto will return to the Terriers for the 2011-12 season as he will continue to develop his game before playing in the NHL.

“I would have to say the physical part of my game,” said Nieto when asked by McLaughlin on what he’s working on the most.  “I think I need to go to the hard areas a bit more.  And I need to use my speed better in all situations, with or without the puck.”

And for Sharks numberoligists, Nieto already has his sights set on what jersey number he would like to wear when he makes his NHL debut in teal.

“If I was able to pick, I’d go with #91,” said Nieto in his mayorsmanor.com interview.  “Growing up I was a big Sergei Fedorov fan.  So I’ve worn that number a lot so far.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Matt Nieto scores against Green Bay  {Courtesy of YouTube user “nhldraftvideo”}
In this video clip, Nieto scores a goal for USNTDP against Green Bay in a Nov. 14, 2009 game.

Matt Nieto scores first collegiate goal  {Courtesy of YouTube user “BUAthletics”}
In this video clip, Nieto scores his first collegiate goal in a Oct. 16, 2010 game against UMass Amherst.

Matt Nieto sparks Boston comeback  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyeastonline”}
In this video clip, Nieto scores the first of the Terriers four goals in the second period in a Nov. 20, 2010 game against New Hampshire.

Matt Nieto scores against Boston College  {Courtesy of YouTube user “nhldraftvideo”}
In this video clip, Nieto scores a goal for Boston University against Boston College in a Dec. 2, 2010 game.

Matt Nieto scores against Boston College  {Courtesy of YouTube user “nhldraftvideo”}
In this video clip, Nieto scores a goal for Boston University against Boston College in a Dec. 3, 2010 game.

Matt Nieto scores against Northeastern  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyeastonline”}
In this video clip, Nieto scores a goal to help Boston University defeat Northeastern 5-4 in a Dec. 8, 2010 game.  Nieto’s goal starts at the 1:10 mark.

Matt Nieto scores against Vermont  {Courtesy of YouTube user “BUAthletics”}
In this video clip, Nieto scores a goal to help Boston University defeat Vermont 3-1 in a Feb. 22, 2011 game.  Nieto’s goal starts at the 1:00 mark.

Matt Nieto post-draft interview  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyeastonline”}

*Videos and information were used from sharks.nhl.com, www.mayorsmanor.com, www.goterriers.com, www.collegehockeynews.com, www.hockeysfuture.com, www.usahockey.com, www.usahockeymagazine.com, www.hockeydb.com and www.youtube.com.*

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About Jon Allred

Life long San Jose and Worcester Sharks fan that bleeds teal and black.

Posted on July 6, 2011, in Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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