GLENDALE – Coyotes forward Tobias Rieder is approaching the stretch drive of his rookie NHL season and instead of hitting the wall, as they say, he appears to be picking up steam.
"He looks good," Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Wednesday’s practice. "A couple of weeks ago we were a little bit concerned with him and we backed his minutes down by a couple, but then the last little stretch here he’s been very good. He’s a real devoted guy and plays the game the right way. He’s had a very good rookie season. Very good... He’s been a real good surprise for us this year."
Rieder has notched 10 goals – including two short-handed ones on the same penalty kill – and six assists in 57 NHL games this season following his recall from the American Hockey League on Nov. 2. His 10 goals rank fifth on the team and are the most scored by a Coyotes rookie since Mikkel Boedker netted 11 goals in 2008-09.
"There is always stuff to improve," Rieder said after being asked to grade his own performance this season. "Obviously I’d like to put up some more goals. If you see the chances I get sometimes, I’d like to bury a couple more of those. But all in all it’s been a good year. I’ve learned a lot. I’m just trying to keep going."
Rieder, 22, ranks fourth among NHL rookies with 150 shots on goal. He’s taken 45 of those since Feb. 1 – including a career-high seven on Feb. 9 vs. Chicago – and he has scored two of his 10 goals in the past four games.
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Defensively, the 114th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft by Edmonton is tied for the team lead with 35 takeaways.
"(Defense) is probably one of the better parts of his game," Tippett said. "He reads plays very well. He’s strong on the puck, strong on the walls. When you see young players, a lot of times those are parts of the game where they’re not NHL ready. He’s put the work in there and does the right things in those situations."
Should Rieder play in all 15 remaining games, that would give him 72 games in the NHL this season plus nine in the AHL to start the campaign. That’s a lot of hockey for someone who hasn’t played more than 64 games in one season since 2011-12.
So, is Rieder worried about fatigue over the final month of the season?
"Wearing an NHL jersey gives you that extra boost every time you go out there," he said, "so that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m just going to play every game like it’s my last and just try to do as good as I can."
For those wondering, the Coyotes/Jets franchise record for goals scored by a rookie is an eye-popping 76 by Teemu Selanne in 1992-93. That's also an NHL record for goals scored by a rookie - and probably always will be.