SAP CENTER — It was a bit of a switch to see forward Matt Nieto in a leadership role at the Tank on Wednesday.
But No. 83 was showing his NHL chops when he carried the puck down center ice in an effort to help his team-for-the-night rally to a win in the Sharks 2014 prospect scrimmage. It wasn’t enough for a victory for the teal-sweatered squad however, as they fell 2-1 to the opposing Team White.
“Even though it’s a scrimmage, you never want to lose!” Nieto laughed afterwards. “I thought our team battled back pretty hard, but we just couldn’t get the win.”
On an evening highlighted by the young prospects performances, it was refreshing, even fun, to watch Nieto play in a more veteran role.
Given the team’s offseason push to move the leadership to its younger players, Wednesday might have been a highlight of Nieto’s move from “new kid” to “igniter.”
“Last year my role was a little bit different. But it doesn’t matter how old you are to be a leader. You don’t have to be that vocal, you can lead by example. That’s something I plan on doing next year too.”
The Southern California native did a bit of bouncing back and forth between the Sharks AHL and NHL camps at the start of the 2013-2014 before filling out the end of his 2013-2014 assignment in San Jose and garnering himself Co-Rookie of the Year honors.
Spending time with both pieces of the franchise has familiarized him with a lot of the other players. So he isn’t only spending the week of development camp hanging out with old friends, but also watching others move up through the system.
“I think every year, this camp, there are always players that end up making the team out of camp. It’s exciting to see these guys develop, and see the improvements that they’ve made since last year.”
Of course, when asked point blank if he was purposely assuming a leadership role during camp, the forward was humble as could be.
“I’m trying to be a good example. All of these guys, they work hard. They’re all trying to make an impression … I’m pretty hard on myself.”
Nieto registered 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) for San Jose last season, notching his first NHL goal on October 8, 2013, against the New York Rangers.