Washington Capitals prospect Damien Riat has confirmed that he will be back in North America next season with the goal of this time trying to carve out a place with the Capitals. He has given himself two years to achieve the goal.
What is your assessment of your four months spent with the Hershey Bears, in the AHL, far from the glitter of the NHL?
“I must say I was very surprised at the level and especially the intensity of players every day to work when no one is present. You can not allow yourself to slow down, or if not, you do not play the next game. I therefore draw a very positive and professional assessment where I learned a lot, every day. It’s not for nothing that most NHL players have gone through this League [AHL]. It develops young players to reach the highest level.”
Did the leaders of the Capitals keep their eyes on you every time you played?
“Yes, they don’t miss a Hershey game. Either they are there, in the stands, or they are watching the game on television or on other media. With Covid , there were all the same 3000 spectators allowed in an ice rink of [capacity] 10,000 people.”
Have you received a review of your work from the Washington Technical taff?
“We had some very good meetings at the end of the season. I learned the North American mentality which is completely different from Switzerland. We have a lot less time on the ice to create a play. It also goes much faster. So there was an adaptation to make at the beginning but at the end everyone could see that I was comfortable in this League. In Washington, they were very happy. After that, my goal is to go quickly to the NHL.”
Since the US, have you had time for your interest in what happened in Switzerland and Geneva-Servette making it to the final?
“Of course, and the Genevans should not have any regrets because it is obvious that if we had told them about the final at the start of the season, everyone would have signed with their eyes closed. No one expected such a journey. Now we have all seen that it was the year of the Zougois (EV-Zug) and that nothing could stop them. They have found the means to score at the end of all the important games. This is what the Genevans lacked, who despite everything, had a very good season.”
You played twenty matches with the Eagles this season, have you received your silver medal awarded to the finalists ?
“No I did not receive anything.”
And the Swiss team, which plays Worlds in Latvia, do you watch it on television?
“I have to admit that I haven’t watched the games too much because it’s the holidays for me right now and I need to clear my head with hockey. I really need to do something else now. But I do not hide. I saw images on social networks.”
Patrick Fischer didn’t call you?
“I haven’t had too much contact with him, but that’s how it is.”
And after your vacation, what’s next for you?
“I will resume summer training in a few weeks in Lausanne with the structure of my agent in a Cross Fit and it will start again like every year with ice time at the vallée de Joux. I don’t have the dates but I think I’ll go back to the United States in September.”
The rumor spoke of you in Lugano where you would have found Chris McSorley?
“It’s a rumor, I didn’t get this info from my agent. My goal is to continue my experience and show what I’m worth in Washington even though it’s tough for the kids to play for the Capitals right now. For me, who gave myself two years to reach NHL , it’s a big challenge that I’m ready to take on.”
Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.