Weight: 164 pounds
Date of birth: March 20, 2000
Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario
OHL Draft: Round 2, 29th overall, 2016 Priority Selection
NHL Central Scouting pre-season: C Prospect
NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 119th North American Skaters
NHL Central Scouting final rank: 100th North American Skaters
Kitchener Rangers center Riley Damiani completed his second season in the Ontario Hockey League and will be on his way to Dallas for the 2018 National Hockey League Draft next month.
Damiani has always been known as an offensive threat. He played his Minor Midget AAA hockey during the 2015-2016 season with the Mississauga Rebels, posting 34 goals and 41 assists in 71 games. At the end of his season, he appeared in 4 Ontario Junior Hockey League games with the Georgetown Raiders, scoring twice and adding an assist. During the prior season, he scored 25 goals and 21 assists in 34 games in Bantam AAA with Mississauga.
The scouting report from OHL Central Scouting at the time of his OHL Draft read as follows:
Riley is a skilled center that never takes a shift off and is constantly working. He is a very good skater and is extremely quick off the mark with good explosive stops and starts. He uses his skating and skill set to generate offense each and every shift. You always know what you are going to get with him because of his work ethic and compete level. Riley is not a physical player, but he will go up against anyone at any time. He battles hard for pucks and wins a lot of races for loose pucks.
During the 2016-2017 season, Damiani appeared in 62 games for the Rangers. He scored 9 goals while adding 13 assists. He would add one more goal and a helper in 5 playoff games. He would also represent Canada at the World Hockey Challenge Under-17, where he scored once and added two assists in 5 games.
During his just completed draft year, Damiani scored 19 goals and 18 assists in 64 games. This came while playing predominantly third line minutes. In 19 playoff games, he scored 5 goals and 7 assists for the Rangers, who came within a game 7 in double overtime from reaching the OHL Championship. He was considered by many to be one of the Rangers’ best players in the postseason.
Whether you go by the OHL listing him at 5’10”, or NHL Central Scouting listing him at 5’9”, Damiani is small in stature. But he has an impressive skill-set.
First and foremost, Damiani’s skating stands out. His first steps and acceleration are almost at an elite level. Once he gets that jump, he’s hard to catch which makes him a shoe-in to get to loose pucks first. If you are lucky to catch him, he will never shy away from taking the hit to make a play.
Secondly, there are few players that play with the intensity and work ethic that Damiani does. With the size disadvantage he has, he knows he needs to outwork his opponents at every opportunity. While he will never be mistaken for a physical player, he will never shy away from battling along the walls for possession. Surprisingly, he wins many of those battles.
Finally, you can’t help but be impressed with his hockey smarts, which include his vision and anticipation skills. His ability to see plays developing make him a threat on the offense. He’s just okay at keeping possession, but when pressured he finds teammates with accurate passing abilities. Combines with his skating, he jumps into open areas quickly so that teammates can find him. And he can beat a goaltender with his deceptively good shot and quick release.
Damiani uses those same attributes in the defensive zone. His anticipation and skating allow him to be in excellent position while defending. He closes lanes quickly and will not shy away from putting his body in front of shots. Add that to a very active stick, and he’s above average at creating turnovers. And all that combined, makes him one of the best penalty killers, if not the best, the Rangers have.
Obviously, getting bigger and stronger will be important for Damiani. He can’t control his height, but he can control adding some much-needed bulk and muscle. Knowing his work ethic, he’ll put in the necessary work needed to achieve that.
The other thing Damiani needs to work on, if NHL teams see him as a center at the next level, is faceoffs. He was just 46% on the dot during the regular season. That number took a huge hit in the playoffs where he went 90 for 256 or 35.2%.