We continue our annual prospect review and forecast series with Damien Riat, forward, for the Hershey Bears. (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 Capitals announced on March 5, 2020 that they had signed Riat to a two-year entry-level contract for an average annual value of $817,500. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of next season.
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 also twice represented Sweden in the World Junior Championships and once in the World Championship.
Riat recorded 11 goals and 11 assists in 36 games played for EHC Biel-Bienne in the 2019-20 season. 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. Riat heated-up after returning, and posted strong games in January and Februry, including a four-goal game.
The 2020-21 season saw Riat begin the go key season with Geneve-Servette in the Swiss League. He recorded seven goals and 11 assists in just 20 games played before he reported to Hershey. For his rookie season in the AHL, Riat recorded three goals and six assists in 33 games played.
2020-2021 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following month-by-month breakdown is an aggregation of our monthly prospect reports prepared during the 2020-2021 season. You can find all of our weekly and monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Riat was officially loaned to Geneve-Servette of the Swiss league on August 4. He would record a goal and two assists in the team’s second preseason game on September 1. Riat’s goal came with 7:19 remaining in the opening frame to give Geneve-Servette an early 2-0 lead. The score came on a blast from the top of the left circle.
Riat would provide a primary assist on the Eagles 7th goal of the game, and also recorded an assist on his brothers first goal of the preseason, late in the third period, to make the score 9-0.
Geneve-Servette would hold on for the 9-2 win. Riat had a goal and two assists in the game. Riat missed the last four exhibition games for Geneve-Servette for unreported reasons, but appears to be ready for the season.
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) September 28, 2020
Geneve-Servette begins their season on Friday.
Riat had a moderate start to the season, recording two assists in the first three games. He began the season anchoring the right wing on the first-line and remained there until October 15 when he was dropped to the third-line.
Riat would score his first goal of the regular season in the first period.
Riat would score his second goal of the season on a nice deke against SC Bern on October 27. He would also add an assist on one of former Capitals forward Eric Fehr’s four goals in the game.
October 30th’s game against Lausanne was postponed on gameday when an unnamed player on Geneve-Servette tested positive for COVID-19.
For the season, Riat had two goals and five assists in just six games played for Geneve-Servette. The following is his game-by-game breakdown for the season [Click to enlarge]:
A positive case of Covid was reported on October 30 at the Genève-Servette Hockey Club, which resulted in the entire team undergoing a preventive quarantine and all team members were subjected to tests. Several results were been found to be positive. Sunday November 1’s match against HC Lugano was postponed.
The cantonal doctor announced on November 1 that Genève-Servette, the players and the staff, would have to observe a quarantine of ten days as nine people had been infected with COVID-19.
When play resumed mid-month, Riat continued to anchor the 2RW position. He recorded an assist in Geneve-Servette’s 4–0 win over EV Zug on November 13. He recorded his first goal of the month, a power play tally, the following game against HC Davos on November 14.
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) November 14, 2020
Riat would return to the scoresheet the following game on November 20 with his 4th goal of the season. Riat would receive a feed from behind the goal and blasted one from the left circle for the score. Riat also had an assist in the game.
For the month of November, Riat had two goals and four assists in six games played. For the season he had four goals and nine assists in 12 games played.
ANALYSIS: Riat is looked good in the two games we watched. His speed and puck sense were always on display. Hopefully he will get more games before he is to return to Washington for Capitals training camp. He is a dark horse to make some significant noise for a roster spot when camp opens.
Riat scored in a shootout against Lausanne on December 1 to help Geneve-Servette advance in the semi-finals of the Swiss Cup.
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) December 2, 2020
The Tribune deGeneve reported on December 30 that Capitals prospect Damien Riat has been recalled by the Capitals. The report stated that Riat would play for Geneve-Servette against Lausanne on December 30 before flying to Washington. [Update: January 2: Riat was not named to training camp roster and remained in Switzerland with Geneve-Servette]
Riat recorded the lone goal for Geneve-Servette in a 4-1 loss to Lausanne. After the game, he spoke about his opportunity in the NHL.
“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.
For the month, Riat had a goal and two assists in five games played. The 6’0”, right-handed winger scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 17 games for Geneve-Servette this season.
Riat was previously confirmed to be recalled by the Capitals for training camp in January, but a late change had him stay in Europe.
Riat would notch two more goals on January 7 against Legano. Riat’s first goal came early in the contest to give Geneve-Servette a 2-1 lead. Former Washington Capital Daniel Winnik found Riat sitting unfettered in front of the net.
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) January 7, 2021
Riat’s second goal highlighted his excellent shooting skills, going top-right corner from the right circle.
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) January 7, 2021
Lugano would win the game, 7-3.
Riat would play just 38 seconds of the January 8th game between Geneve-Servette and Lugano. Riat would exit the ice, serving a match penalty for checking Lugano defender Elia Riva headlong into the boards.
As a result of the play, Riat was subsequently suspended for seven games and fined 6,000 Francs (about $6,740), including procedural costs. As it turns out, it would be his last game for Geneve-Servette.
Lematin.ch reported on January 27 that Riat had been recalled by the Capitals and will be reporting to Hershey for the start of the AHL season. The Bears confirmed the recall on January 29. The Bears begin their 2020-21 campaign on February 5.
A late arrival to Hershey’s training camp, Riat was a welcomed addition to the forward corps. He started the season playing for Geneve Servette in Switzerland and posted seven goals and 11 assists there.
The Swiss-born winger has suited up for all eight games. Riat picked up his first AHL point against Lehigh Valley on February 14 when he dished out the primary assist on Rob O’Gara’s goal.
He netted his first AHL goal three days later against Binghamton. He burst through the defense in the third period and beat the Binghamton goalie low to the left side to give the Bears a 2-1 advantage that they would not relinquish. The goal also gave Riat his first two-point game, as he assisted on Brett Leason’s tying goal in the second period.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) February 18, 2021
He was scoreless in his last four games of the month, but he still contributes in other ways and gets his shots. Riat has a physical side to his game and is not afraid to deliver a hit.
March was a quiet month for Riat. He ended a seven-game goalless drought with an early first period goal on a wrist shot at Lehigh Valley on March 14.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) March 14, 2021
The Swiss winger then went on a four-game pointless streak before snapping it with an assist on Shane Gersich’s empty netter against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on March 28. He picked up the secondary assist on the lone Hershey goal in a loss at Lehigh Valley on March 31.
The rookie was dropped to the fourth line for a stretch after making a costly turnover against Binghamton on March 19. Jesper Boqvist forced Riat to cough up the puck behind the net. The turnover led to a Fabian Zetterlund goal. He has since been moved back up on a line with Connor McMichael. Riat needs to bring more offensively.
Riat picked up an assist on Connor McMichael’s opening goal against Binghamton on April 3 to run his assist streak to three games. The rookie out of Switzerland would go scoreless in his next four games and would only score one point the rest of the month.
That point was a helper on Axel Jonsson-Fjallby’s third period goal against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on April 24. Riat was quiet offensively during April and there are times where he is not noticeable on the ice.
Riat has two goals and six assists in 26 games played so far this season. He’s recorded 31 shots for a 6.5% shooting percentage.
Riat struggled a bit offensively down the stretch. His lone offensive contribution in the month came on May 5. Riat finished-off a nice, tic-tac-toe passing sequence by one-timing a Aliaksei Protas’ feed into the net.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 5, 2021
He went scoreless in his last four games of the season. The Swiss winger played in all 33 games for Hershey this season, totaling three goals and six assists in his rookie campaign.
Riat seemed to hit a wall down the stretch. He had only two points in his last 14 games. The Geneva, Switzerland native did play 20 games with his hometown Geneve-Servette team before crossing the Atlantic Ocean and joining the Bears. Like Protas, Riat will benefit from a full training camp next season. He finished the season with three goals and nine assists.
TRENDING – SAME
Riat has shown flashes of being ready to make the jump to the next level. His speed and shot are next-level, and he also shows excellent vision and the ability to read and create plays on the ice. The key for Riat will be to show a little more consistency and needs to improve his puck battles and play along the boards.
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 start his 2021-22 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.
By Jon Sorensen
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