With the 2019-2020 season now in the books for a majority of the Washington Capitals prospects, we begin our annual review for the last 12 months for each of the Capitals prospects, and provide a forecast for the upcoming 2020-2021 season. We begin this series of reports with an annual review and forecast for Damien Riat, forward, who played last season with EHC Biel-Bienne in the Swiss League. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page right here.)
Riat is a 6’0”, 180-lb right-handed winger, drafted by the Capitals in the 4th round (#117 overall) of the 2016 NHL entry draft. The 23-year-old just finished his fifth season in the NLA (Swiss League), the last two with EHC Biel-Bienne. The Capitals announced on March 5, 2020 that they had signed forward Damien Riat to a two-year entry level contract for an average annual value of $817,500.
Riat recorded 11 goals and 11 assists in 36 games played last season for EHC Biel-Bienne. He missed the better part of two months when he took a puck to the head and sustained a concussion on November 2nd. The injury required a short stay in the hospital. Riat was selected by the Swiss National team for the Deutschland Cup, but was unable to play due to concussion symptoms. However, Riat heated-up after returning, and posted strong games in January and Februry, including a four-goal game.
For the 2018-19 season, Riat registered 11 goals and 14 assists in 48 games for EHC Biel-Bienne of the Swiss League. Prior to that, he played three seasons with the Geneve-Servette Hockey Club. He twice represented Sweden in the World Junior Championships and once in the World Championship.
2019-2020 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following month-by-month breakdown is an aggregation of our monthly prospect reports prepared during the 2019-2020 season. You can find all of our weekly and monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Despite the rumors of the Swiss winger signing with the Capitals, he remained with EHC Biel-Bienne, of the NLA, the team Riat joined before the last season. After 14 games, Damien Riat has six (6) points (two goals, four assists), on a team which is currently second in the league. Riat has never been known for huge numbers points-wise, but more of a reliable two-way playing style. The production is still where he needs to improve most in order to reach the NHL. The Capitals have until next summer to decide on Riat, before potentially losing his rights. Riat said the following to Swiss magazine Journal du Juraafter returning from Training Camp with Washington: “…at some point, I will take my chance. But for that I’ll first have to see if Washington offers me something.“, implying that the Capitals haven’t presented a concrete offer.
The 22-year-old took a puck to his face in a game against HC Lugano on November 2. The incident resulted in a concussion and a few days in the hospital. Riat was released from the hospital on Tuesday (11/5) and is expected to be out of the lineup until the first week of December. Riat was invited to take part in the Deutschland Cup, but as reported in our weekly updates, will be replaced by Luca Hischier. The Swiss forward dressed for two games without producing a point, before getting injured. For the season, Riat has two goals and four assists in 16 games played so far this season. Rumors have begun to surface as to what Riat’s next move will be. “There is a lot of interest in Damien, especially from the KHL and Sweden,” his agent Fred Holdener tells the Journal du Jura. But he also states that his client has not signed anywhere yet and thus denies any rumors about an agreement with SC Bern: “That is completely false”. A decision, however, does not seem to be imminent. The reason is a possible move overseas. First, Riat and his agent want to know about the intentions of the Washington Capitals. On the ice, Riat returned to the lineup in 12/1 after sitting out most of November with the concussion.
Damien Riat is still out with an injury after taking a puck to the face, and is now dealing with a concussion following the impact. He has played in just one game since November 2.
Damien Riat has struggled with a concussion throughout the season, but returned to play and is performing well for his EHC Biel-Bienne. Offensively, Riat has 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 27 games played this season and leads the team in penalty minutes with 53 PIMS. Riat has a chance to eclipse his career-high in points (25) if his rate of production continues at the same pace.
Damien Riat struggled with a concussion earlier in the season, but has since returned to play and is performing well for EHC Biel-Bienne. Riat has 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 27 games. The young blueliner is also leading the team in penalty minutes, having spent 53 minutes in the sin bin. Riat is likely to surpass his career-high in points (25) if he continues to produce at the same pace. Riat turned 23-years old since we last checked in and is doing well for Biel-Bienne, who are ready for the playoffs after finishing in fifth place. The Swiss winger finished the regular season with a total of 22 points in 38 games, a good bounce-back season after an injury-filled start of the season. Riat isn’t really a star player, but more of a good secondary scorer with some upside in the defensive game. It’s tough to value his eventual chances of reaching the NHL in the near future. It seems like he may have reached his ceiling.
Four-goal game (2/22/20)
Riat has next-level speed and skating ability, and has an NHL-caliber shot, but he will be tested with the more physical game and smaller rinks that the North America game requires. He reads the game well, and at top speed, but battling with, and around the puck will be his challenge next season.
Riat will look to build on his pretty good showing in last September’s Capitals training camp. He will start his 2020-2021 campaign by attending the Capitals training camp this fall. Barring an eye-popping showing in camp, he will likely begin next season in Hershey, and likely spend most, if not all of the season there. He is a top-six type forward, but his best shot at a future spot on the Capitals roster is likely on the third line.
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By Jon Sorensen