A surging forward prospect, signed by a team in need of improvement along the wing.
Capitals prospect Damien Riat was all set to begin his work in North America, starting with Capitals training camp this week.
The Capitals loaned Riat to the Geneve-Servette Hockey Club of the Swiss National League on August 4 to begin the 2020-21 hockey season. It was expected that the Capitals would recall Riat to North America when the organization’s 2020-21 season training camp opens, according to the Capitals official release.
“I signed for two seasons there and I am ready to put all my energy and chances on my side to succeed. I am ready to be patient and go through the AHL if necessary. When you see the Caps’ lineup, you have to be really strong to integrate into it,” said Riat.
“It will certainly not be easy for me in Washington. But I will do everything I can to take the chance this time and make the leap onto the team. My goal is to play in the NHL as soon as possible. I work on that every day,” he said. “I want to be successful and win championships. I feel like all players. I am of course aware that this requires a lot of hard work,” he said.
As expected, the Tribune deGeneve reported on December 23 that Riat had indeed been recalled by the team. The report stated that Riat would play in that night’s game for Geneve-Servette, before departing for Washington.
Then news came on December 30th that Riat would be in the lineup that night for Geneve-Servette. The Tribune deGeneve again reported on that day that Riat had been recalled by the Capitals, but he would play vs. Lausanne on the 30th before flying to Washington.
The story began the eye-brow raising. How could Riat fly to Washington on the 30th and make the Capitals training camp on opening day set for January 3, considering the 7-day quarantine period required for international players? Maybe he received the vaccine? Maybe he already had COVID-19?
Riat did indeed play for Geneve-Servette on December 30, scoring the teams lone goal in a 4-1 loss. But the flight to America never materialized and Riat was not on the Capitals official training camp roster.
“For the moment, we do not have a fixed return date,” his agent Frédéric Holdener told TdG Sports. “What matters to Washington leaders is that prospects can play at a high level. That’s why they preferred the option of leaving him in Europe like many other European players.”
It should be noted that Daniel Carr was the only Capitals loan to return from Europe for Capitals training camp. Carr, who previously played for Peter Laviolette in Nashville, was signed by the Capitals just days after Laviolette was hired.
The larger, overriding question, is will the situation continue until the end of the season? Riat is prepared to begin his career in North America, and at minimum, the Hershey Bears could use his scoring.
“As I speak to you, we don’t know yet,” said Holdener.
For the time being, Riat is still a member of Geneve-Servette, and is playing this Saturday night a match in Rapperswil. In 17 regular season games with Geneve-Servette, Riat has recorded 16 points. (5g, 11a).
There is still a chance Riat is recalled to attend the Bears training camp, which could possibly start in a few weeks. The AHL season remains on track to start their season on February 5.
By Jon Sorensen