The month of September was a roller coaster of sorts for forward Cristoval Nieves.
The 2012 second-round pick was one of the best baby Blueshirts at the 2016 Traverse City Prospects Tournament, notching two assists and three points in the four-game tournament, all while serving as team captain.
Nieves hoped to carry that into training camp, but an upper-body injury prevented that from happening, limiting the 22-year-old to just two full practice with the Rangers.
"It was pretty frustrating," Nieves said Thursday. "I thought I played really well at Traverse and I was excited to bring that momentum into camp. Things happen. You just kind of have to deal with it and we did."
Now healthy, the Syracuse, N.Y.-native will skate in his first preseason game for the Rangers tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. While the negative in the past, Nieves is only looking forward and hopes to end his first training camp on a high note.
"It's an exciting feeling to finally put on this jersey and finally play a preseason game," Nieves told NYRangers.com. "I feel like it's been a long time coming and hopefully I can do what I do best and make a good impression and leave these guys with a positive vibe."
Nieves did just that last season when he joined Hartford (AHL) after finishing his collegiate career at the University of Michigan, scoring two goals and three assists in eight games with the wolf Pack.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said he's heard nothing but positive reports from management and the scouting staff of how Nieves performed at last month's Traverse City tournament.
"Our scouts that all saw him in Traverse City all thought a big body, a very good skater," Vigneualt said Thursday. "They all felt the hockey sense was good. Unfortunately, he got injured and hasn't been able to play a lot. He's had two practices with the team and tonight he'll get an opportunity to play and show what he can do."
Nieves is expected to center the Rangers' fourth line, between Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast. Nieves said he's hoping the trio could use its speed to generating chances.
"I know Grabner is a pretty quick skater, and so is Fast," Nieves said. "I feel like we can definitely generate some speed and hopefully get things going down low and just play well together."
Tonight marks the Rangers' finale preseason game, and the final audition for several players hoping to find their name on the opening night roster when the games start to count for real a week from tonight against the Islanders.
Vigneault said this is the final chance for players to show they belong, as well as the final time management can see the players in game action.
"Tonight is another opportunity for guys to show us what they can do," said Vigneault, who stated there are between two and four positions still up for grabs. "It's another opportunity for us to evaluate our team and try and put the puzzle together, see where the different pieces fit, how they could possibly fit, who's ready to assume maybe a bigger role or a first time role on this team. We've got tonight as far as evaluation. We've got all the week ahead of us laid out on what we want to do. We've got certain things we want to get accomplished."
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Jimmy Vesey - Kevin Hayes - Nathan Gerbe
J.T. Miller - Josh Jooris - Brandon Pirri
Michael Grabner - Cristoval Nieves - Jesper Fast
Marc Staal - Nick Holden
Brady Skjei - Dan Girardi
Adam Clendening - Kevin Klein