San Jose Sharks Season Review: Matt Nieto


Matt Nieto broke into the NHL with the San Jose Sharks during the 2013-14 season due in large part to his breakaway speed. Nieto was a nice addition to the Sharks lineup during his rookie campaign, but like many San Jose players, took a step backwards last year.

Now, entering his third year in the league, Nieto is almost at a crossroads in his career as the Sharks have some intriguing young prospects that will be looking to make the roster in the 2015-16 season.

The former second-round pick is not the biggest forward, standing five-foot-11 and 177 pounds, but he can still be an effective player due to his aforementioned speed. The problem with Nieto’s sophomore campaign was that he didn’t show much, if any, improvement from his rookie year.

After scoring 10 goals and 14 assists in 66 games two seasons ago, Nieto added three more assists, while playing in six more games and being a minus-12. That’s not the kind of production that you want to see. Also, Nieto was on the ice for way too many goals last season, ranking last on the San Jose Sharks with a goals-against-per-60 of 3.16.

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On the flip side, Nieto continued to be a positive on the possession side, ranking seventh on the Sharks with a Corsi For percentage of 52.7. Nieto still has an elite asset that is needed to excel in the NHL.

The problem for Nieto is he needs to translate his skills into more offensive production. Many have considered Nieto one of San Jose’s most unlucky players over the past two seasons, but, at the end of the day, it’s all about putting the puck into the back of the net.

Nieto, who was regularly slotted alongside Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, will be an interesting choice for Peter DeBoer. Nieto was solid, but again, lacked the finishing ability that you’d like to see on your second line. However, at the end of the season, Nieto found a nice chemistry with rookie Chris Tierney and that could be where he ultimately ends up. That position in the lineup won’t come with the scoring expectations, and he could be utilized as a nice penalty killing option.

The upcoming season is a big one for Nieto who will be pushed by youngsters such as 2014 first-round pick Nikolay Goldobin, who does appear to have the scoring touch that Nieto has lacked. Nieto can still develop into an NHL mainstay, but the jump needs to occur next year.

He was not the only player to experience a sophomore slump as Tomas Hertl also struggled, but Hertl proved that he could put up offensive numbers before getting injured. The development needs to show from Nieto next season, otherwise, he could find himself fighting for his spot in the lineup on a more frequent basis.

Next: San Jose Sharks 2014-15 Analysis: Patrick Leiva

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