|Tobias Rieder was chosen in the 4th round, 114th overall by the Oilers in 2011. He's since put up 40 goals & 41 assists with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers (Photo by Getty Images)
- "You don't get 40 goals in the OHL if you're not a goal-scorer and don't have an incredible knack around the net," gleamed Oilers Director of Player Development, Mike Sillinger.
Pressure? What pressure? Tobias Rieder
, selected by the Oilers 114th overall last June, doesn't know the meaning of it or the nerves that come along. Fourth-round choices don't normally produce at such a thrilling clip, but he's found a way in the most emphatic style possible.
He's scored 40 goals and 81 points in only 58 regular-season games with the Kitchener Rangers this year, shattering the standard set by another 2011 selection -- you (and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
, the NHL and everyone else) may have heard of him: Gabriel Landeskog, who notched 66 points (36 goals) in 53 last season with the same club.
It's not to suggest that Rieder's lights-out scoring totals will make him an instant superstar in Landeskog's ilk, but the numbers are encouraging.
"This year I've really had to step up my game and be a leader in the dressing room and on the ice," he said, noting the loss of Landeskog to the Colorado Avalanche. "I think I've done my job this season. It's gone pretty good, I'm working really hard as I can in practice, off the ice, every shift and every game. It's working out and I couldn't be happier with my season to this point."
Playing on a line with Michael Catenacci, Rieder has been able to pinpoint his true calling as a goal-scorer. Although his numbers have been incredible, it's his two-way game that has garnered attention, propelling his development to new heights.
"I want to be a leader this year," he explained. "A leader has to score goals, has to make plays and, of course, has to be solid in his own zone. I've tried to be good there and help our team give up the least amount of goals possible. I'd say if you play well in the defensive zone, then you're going to get more chances up the ice as well. It's become a pretty important part of my game."
"He's a goal-scorer," laughed Sillinger, who still values his ability at both ends. "He's their go-to player, but obviously he's a playmaker as well. He plays on Kitchener's top line, No. 1 power-play, No. 1 penalty kill and even on the PK, he seems to have a ton of shorthanded goals this year.
"He's a threat every time he's on the ice."
Sillinger, who makes time to see each prospect once a month, has had six separate viewings with Rieder this season, getting a valuable and in-person response to the youngster's development. That close-knit relationship, in addition to a longtime bond with an experienced role model, has provided Rieder with the tools necessary to build a booming career.
"I've always looked up to Marco Sturm," Rieder said. "He made it to the NHL as a German player, so he was always a role model. I never got the chance to skate with him, but last summer he was at my house for a barbecue and he gave me some advice on how to become a good pro."
Both Rieder and Sturm hail from the German city of Landshut, while the 33-year-old veteran began his career there with the DEL's EV squad -- in addition to having played several seasons with Landshut's junior club years prior.
It's a natural connection.
And it's that bond that also ought to help mend the gap between OHL success and a career in the bigs. Sturm's work ethic and extra gear is what helped boost him to an NHL career that's spanned 15 years and nearly 1000 games, with a career-high 28 goals and 48 points coming during the 2002-03 campaign with the San Jose Sharks.
It was great. Amazing. Just putting on the Oilers jersey was a dream come true. - Rieder
Rieder, 5'10" and 180 pounds, has a similar build to Sturm's and has an unmatched drive, helping to vault an already lethal skill-set into something even more dangerous.
A little seasoning won't hurt, either.
"He's a good skater and he does many things well, much like Sturm," Sillinger said, "but he's not an explosive player. His work on special teams has done wonders in terms of developing his two-way game. He's very, very smart, he uses good angles and has a great stick.
"The area that he has to improve, obviously so he can reach the next level, is his explosiveness. He's a good skater, but I think he can be more powerful. That's going to help him down low in the corners, spinning off checks, taking the puck to the net; because he does a real good job in doing that now, so if he had that extra gear, that extra step, that's going to make him even more dynamic."
Combine that with the passion so clearly heard through Rieder's words, and the Oilers have an exciting young prospect making headway down the pipeline.
"At the main camp, I was standing on the ice with guys like Taylor Hall
, Ryan Smyth
and other great NHL players," he said, looking back at last September's initiation. "It was probably the best experience I've ever had. You usually just see them on TV, and then all of a sudden you're skating on a line with them, standing beside them on the ice and sitting beside them in the dressing room.
"I learned a lot [at camp] and we talked a lot about habits in all three zones, helping to build good skills and those little things that really help to develop your game."
If this past season is any indication, Rieder heard the message and has applied the education full-bore, in what has become a remarkable year in Kitchener.-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick