Cristoval Nieves, a center at the Kent (Conn.) School, ranks as NHL Central Scouting's top-rated U.S. high school player eligible for the 2012 Entry Draft.
NHL Central Scouting on Friday released its list of Players to Watch for Canadian and U.S. junior and midget hockey leagues and U.S. scholastic leagues.
A 6-foot-2 3/4, 184-pound center, Nieves had 43 goals and 18 assists in just 23 games last season, and is the lone player to earn an 'A' ranking on the list, meaning he is a potential first- or second-round pick.
Nieves was selected by the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League in the 2010 OHL draft, after a season that saw him score 30 goals and 72 points in 60 games with the Syracuse Jr. Nationals, but instead is spending another season with the elite prep school.
He's committed to the University of Michigan for the fall of 2012.
Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston said Nieves might be a "first round-type of player."
Another player to watch is Ben Dalpe, a B-rated player who skates with Pembroke of the Central Canada Hockey League. A 5-foot-9, 165-pound center, he has 4 goals and 6 points in 10 games. He's the younger brother of Carolina Hurricanes
forward Zac Dalpe
Zach Stepan, a B-rated player with Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minn., is following in the hockey footsteps of his cousin, New York Rangers
center Derek Stepan
. Zach, a 6-foot, 166-pound center, was third on the team last season with 25 goals and 64 points in 54 games. He's committed to Ohio State University for the fall of 2013.
Another familiar name to hockey fans is Louie Nanne, a 5-10, 162-pound left wing at Edina (Minn.) High. He is the grandson of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer and former Minnesota North Stars general manager Lou Nanne
. Louie Nanne had 11 goals and 23 points in 21 games last season. He's committed to the University of Minnesota for the fall of 2013.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK