Riley Heidt is a flashy and fun forward the Calgary Flames could select at 16th overall
Photo credit:James Doyle/Prince George Cougars
2 months ago
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The forward class for the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft is incredibly deep, and it’s deep enough to the point where a player like Riley Heidt is (unfairly) pushed down in plenty of rankings. Although he might be a little bit of a stretch at 16th overall, there’s plenty of optimism to be had with the kind of game he plays and what he could be in the Calgary Flames prospect pool.
Heidt isn’t the biggest player, standing at 5-foot-10 and weighing 181 pounds, but he’s not afraid to engage physically with his opponents. For someone whose size may get in the way when it comes to how NHL scouts view him, it’s good to have a gritty, “give more hits than you take” attitude on your resume. However, in today’s game, it’s more about speed and skill, and Heidt has those too. His toolbox contains some of the best puck skills in the class, manipulating opponents and finding seams to make passes as easy as possible for both him and the player on the receiving end. He’s also a strong skater with good maneuverability in all sorts of different situations (even strength, power play, odd-man rush, on the cycle, etc.). He’s a speedy forward with good instincts on and off the puck that allow him to be a much more dangerous player than he was already. He doesn’t necessarily have any game-breaking talents, but there are so many different pieces in his arsenal that are translatable to the NHL.
The Athletic‘s Scott Wheeler wrote this about the silky smooth forward:
“Heidt, taken No. 2 in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft with the pick between Bedard and Yager (he and Yager were actually teammates in minor hockey), is a talented and hardworking playmaker who keeps himself involved in the play off the puck and then makes plays between battles in possession of the puck. He was the go-to center for the Cougars in the faceoff circle this year. He’s also a strong skater who is light on his edges, plays with jump, builds speed quickly into flight to put defenders on their heels and/or create separation, leads a lot of neutral-zone carries into entries, and makes plays into space for himself or his linemates at pace, though he can over-pass at times (to the point where he passes up good looks). He’ll make plays through seams. He’s eager physically and can play a scrappy pest game when the intensity ramps up (which has resulted in a couple of suspensions in his time in the WHL). He’s unafraid to try things and has the skill to execute difficult plays. And he always seems to be around it.”
Scouts all around the hockeysphere boast Heidt’s ability to use his skating, instincts and creativity to find his teammates or even set himself up for a good opportunity to score. His offensive skillset is as slick and effective as one can get, and there’s a lot for Flames fans to like.
As the quote above stated, Heidt was taken second overall in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft between Connor Bedard to the Regina Pats and Brayden Yager to the Moose Jaw Warriors. With the Prince George Cougars, the Saskatoon native put up some gaudy numbers, scoring only 8 points in his first 22 games in 2020-21, but then skyrocketing up to 58 points in 65 games and then, this season, posting almost 97 points which included an absurd 72 assists, tied for first in the entire WHL with Bedard. He also had the third-highest point total of any undrafted forward behind only Bedard and Zach Benson.
Availability and fit
It’s likely that Heidt will be available for the Flames to take at 16th overall, but considering the variability of this draft class within the middle picks, there could be a team with extra draft capital that decides to take a swing. However, if he’s still on the board at 16th overall, there are plenty of reasons for the Flames to seriously consider selecting one of the best playmakers in the entire draft. A projected top-six player with the speed, hands, creative instinct, and willingness to be physical and play a pesky game seems like someone you want to have in your prospect pool.
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