GLENDALE – Forward Tobias Rieder continues to turn heads in his rookie NHL season.
"To his credit, he’s getting better every game and that’s what’s encouraging to me," Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney told the team’s flagship radio station, Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, on Wednesday morning. "He has deceptive quickness and all the ingredients of today’s (NHL) player… He’s given us a real nice boost offensively."
Rieder, a 21-year-old forward from Germany, has notched four goals and three assists in 16 games since being recalled from the American Hockey League. Beyond those stats, he’s committed to playing solid defense first and it has paid off; his plus-6 rating ranks seventh among NHL rookies.
Head Coach Dave Tippett rarely compares young players to established veterans but he often publicly likens Rieder’s style of play to that of three-time Selke winner Jere Lehtinen, whom he coached in Dallas before coming to Arizona.
"He's a smart player who reads situations really well,” Tippett said of Rieder, whose last name is pronounced REE-duhr. "He is a good, skilled player and is tenacious on the puck. He has been really good for us and he has a good career ahead of him."
Goalie Mike Smith agrees.
"He's got great skill but he thinks the game so well," Smith told FOX Sports Arizona. "I think that's what has kept him up here. He's fast and he has great skill, but he's a smart player and he doesn't make many mistakes out there. That just says a lot about his maturity."
Per Elias, Rieder’s two shorthanded goals vs. Edmotnon on Monday night mark the quickest two shorthanded tallies by a rookie in NHL history. In addition, Elias reports only one other NHL player has posted two shorthanded goals in less than 60 seconds since 2002: New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner, who on Feb. 27, 2014, scored twice in 48 seconds while a man down vs. Toronto.
• The Coyotes play seven of their next 10 games at home, and that is music to Maloney’s ears.
"It’s up to us to see if we can make something happen here so yes, absolutely, this is a very important time for us," Maloney told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "The sand in the hourglass is slipping as we speak … sometimes there’s a tendency in this game to start looking down the road thinking 'Oh my God, we’re going to need to win 15 in a row to get back in the hunt.' Well, that’s not the attitude we have. We’ll just take it one game at a time."
• Maloney said playing better defense will be key for the Coyotes as they start a five-game homestand vs. Los Angeles on Thursday night.
"Long story short, we need to continue to tighten up in our end and continue to try and find more offense and speed," he said. "We haven’t had enough offensive zone time and that’s not shots on net that’s just playing in other people’s end where you're not always defending … We need to do a better job (defensively) as a group and once we do that then the results will turn for us."
• Defenseman Connor Murphy missed Tuesday’s game at Calgary because of an upper-body injury he suffered in Monday night’s game at Edmonton. The Coyotes did not practice on Wednesday so an official update on Murphy’s status won’t be announced until after Thursday’s morning skate.
• Meanwhile, forward David Moss, who hasn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury on Oct. 23, has been practicing with teammates this week and could return to the lineup on this five-game homestand.