a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

04/18/12 Tobias Rieder: Emerging Force

In reading the name Tobias Rieder, many people will ask themselves this: who? Lost in the shuffle of high draft picks and high-end prospects that the Oilers have collected is the young German, Rieder, who had a breakout season with the Kitchener Rangers this year. He's continuing it into the playoffs, where he's been even better.

Oilers fans couldn't stop talking about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after last year's draft. Other 2011 selections like Oscar Klefbom as well as current Western League players Martin Gernat, David Musil and Travis Ewanyk have ended up getting the most ink. But quietly, Tobias Rieder has established himself as one of the top scorers in the OHL.

With 42-43-85 in just 60 games, the 5'11" and 190 pound former 4th round pick was tenth in the OHL in scoring. He was fifth in the league in goals, second in game winners with 8, and third in short handed goals with 7 in just his second OHL season. Rieder led his team in scoring by a comfortable margin, as the player in second had 69 points, and projected first round pick Radek Faksa was third with 66.

Rieder helped the Rangers to finish in third place in the OHL's Western Conference with a record of 42-24-1-1, and they faced the 6th-seeded Owen Sound Attack in the first round of the playoffs. There, Rieder took over.

He lit the lamp seven times and added six assists while dispatching the Attack in five games, good for 2.6 points per game. He didn't slow down much in the second round either, where the Rangers came up against the OHL's second-best team, the Plymouth Whalers. In a back-and-forth seven game series, Rieder tallied 3-7-10, including a goal and two assists in the deciding game, which Kitchener took 6-3. He is currently leading all OHL playoff scorers with 23 points in 12 games.

Rieder didn't crack the Oilers' top ten prospects in the 2012 Hockey News Future Watch, but after the season he has had it's going to be tough to keep him below players like Ryan Martindale and Curtis Hamilton. The likelihood of his being able to contribute at the NHL level is climbing, but it's going to be tough for him to climb all the way with Edmonton. The Oilers already have more forwards than they know what to do with, and adding Yakupov and another slough of high picks in each round will make things that much more muddled.

The good news for Rieder is that there's no rush. He will turn 20 on January 10th, which means that he just missed the December 31st cutoff for AHL eligibility next season. Another year of Junior won't hurt him, and due to his smaller stature it's better if he isn't rushed along. By the time Rieder is close enough to the NHL to even think about making it, the situation in Edmonton could be very different. And even if the Oilers never use him, his increasing value could make him an attractive trade asset down the line.

Right now, Tobias Rieder looks like a steal at 114th overall. He's a long way from a sure thing, but his progress has been impressive. Way to go, Stu.

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