Through the first five days of this edition of The Copper & Blue's Top 25 Under 25 every player profiled has been a defenseman. That pattern ends with the appearance of our first forward, Tobias Rieder at number 20 and proves that this team has more than just "a bunch of middling defensive prospects with uncertain NHL futures." We also have middling offensive prospects with uncertain NHL futures.
That's not to say that there aren't things to like about Rieder's game. Rieder has made a significant jump in The Copper & Blue's prospect rankings climbing nine spots since this summer, his Top 25 Under 25 debut, so those of us doing these ranking have certainly seen something that we like but for a player that stands just 5'10 and is only weeks removed from his 19th birthday there is a still a long hard road ahead of him to make it to the NHL.
Rieder was taken by the Oilers in the fourth round with the 114th overall selection, a day after they added first overall selection Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the team at the 2011 entry draft. Rieder, who is now playing in his second OHL season with the Kitchener Rangers, was coming off a season with 23 goal and 26 assists when the Oilers selected him. This season Rieder's offensive production has increased and through 40 games played has already scored 51 points and surpassed his points total from all of last season. And fear not fans, Rieder has been limited to only 40 games because he spent most of December playing for Germany at the Division I World Junior Championships where he led all scorers with five goals and eight assists and helped Germany secure a spot in the main tournament next season, not because he was sidelined with an injury.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
Rieder's offensive production has played a big part in his jump from 29 before the season to 20 today. Last season the Rangers were led offensively by forwards Jason Akeson, Gabriel Landeskog, and Matthew Tipoff all of whom are no longer with the team. Although Reider ranked sixth on the team in scoring it was obvious that he wasn't being depended on to lead the Rangers on a nightly basis. In the absence of last season's offensive leaders Rieder has stepped up and shown he can help carry the load. And so, after being ranked in the top 25 by only Jon the last time around Rider has moved up in everyone's rankings (ten spots or more in four rankings) and is now ranked outside of the top 25 by DB alone. Derek, who ranked Rieder higher than anyone, had this to say about him:
Rieder is part of a very talented group of German forwards that include David Elsner and Tom Kühnhackl. Rieder is outscoring Kühnhackl at the same age and outscoring the very talented Radek Faksa in Kitchener and sits 12th in the OHL in goals. The most impressive thing about him is only 5 of his 24 goals have come on the power play, 4th-lowest amongst the top 12 scorers in the O.
Since Derek wrote that Rider has gotten hot and scored four goals in his last three games to bring his season total to 28, good for sixth in the OHL. Derek's point about Rieder's play at even strength is also very important. Rieder not only leads the Rangers in both goals and points but his +22 has him in second place among the team's forwards behind only Radek Faksa. That his production isn't based heavily on power play results is encouraging and likely a good thing given that the depth of talented forwards in the Oilers system could make power play time scarce for the foreseeable future. If he can generate offence at even strength that should be something that helps his climb up the depth chart towards the NHL once he turns pro.
Whereas the rest of us have been impressed with Rieder's progress this season, DB is still hesitant. His thoughts on Rieder:
I just don’t think his offense is going to translate to the NHL. He had a bit of a tough year adjusting to the OHL and when you are that small you really can’t have years where you struggle against your peers. He’ll need to add something else to his game to make it to the next level.
Rieder's small stature is certainly an issue and is likely part of the reason Rieder was still available when the Oilers came to the podium to select him more than halfway through the fourth round. For a team that already has a number of small forwards Rieder could find his road to the NHL blocked by bigger bodies as the Oilers try to add size to their lineup. It's still a long journey for Rieder but I'd like to think that if he can continue to produce offensively that he will get a shot at some point. Whether or not that shot comes in Edmonton could be a different story altogether.