Photo Credit: Harsh Banga / Prince George Cougars
Riley Heidt is a 2023 NHL Draft eligible prospect currently playing in the WHL for the Prince George Cougars.
Heidt, a native of Saskatoon, played his minor hockey in his hometown for the Saskatoon Contacts Under-18 AAA program. From there, he was selected 2nd overall by Prince George in the 2020 WHL bantam draft. This was the draft choice directly preceding Regina’s selection of Connor Bedard.
Last season with Prince George, Heidt was a bright spot on a very average Prince George squad. During the 2021-2022 season, Heidt amassed 21 goals and 37 helpers for a 58-point total over 65 appearances. Thus far this season, Heidt has scored 22 goals and added 57 assists for a 79-point total across 59 games.
D.O.B – March 25, 2005
Nationality – Canadian
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –179 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Heidt’s Style Of Play
Riley Heidt is one of the more premier offensive play drivers in this class. He loves to play in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. When given time and space with the puck, Heidt is simply a killer. He has a lethal shot, that personally I think gets overlooked because of his great play making ability. It’s not often that playmakers can also be major contributors shooting the puck, but that is Riley Heidt, especially on the powerplay. One thing I would love to see more of from Heidt is when he has a defender closing in on him while he winds up a one-timer, receive the pass and cut to the inside just a bit. This changes the angle for the goal tender and creates a lane around said defender. I have seen David Pastrnak pull this move off on multiple occasions. Assuming you get the shot off quickly (which Heidt does) it is a deadly attribute to possess.
When carrying the puck into the offensive zone with possession, Heidt can maintain his speed, ultimately separating himself from his defender. A great tool of his as his distribution skills allow him to flourish after beating that first defenseman. On top of that, he has the confidence in his puck handling to go east, west. This allows him to draw defenders thus leaving a teammate wide open on the weak side. Check out this clip below, as if exemplifies this to a tee.
When it comes to distribution, Heidt is great in all facets. At a high completion rate, he pulls off many cross-ice passes, passes through skates and sticks in tight, and one touch passes. There are two different aspects that make Heidt’s playmaking elite. 1) He gets the puck off his stick so quickly while not sacrificing any accuracy and 2) He’s extremely confident that when he attempts a pass it will be successful. Any sort of hesitation causing any kind of delay completely change the odds of success.
While in the act of defending, Heidt does a great job putting himself in positions to break up passes and eliminate opponents’ options to the middle of the ice. He is constantly surveying and understanding where the opposition is, while reading what they will do one, even two plays before it happens. Heidt’s awareness is by far his best defensive attribute as he is always engaged in the play and responsible in his own end.
When defending in close, Heidt uses his mobility to shut down the attackers’ options side to side. He loves defending going north, south as his quick stick and ability to stop and start causes many turnovers. Similar to someone like Mitch Marner, Heidt has a great grasp of the idea of playing the puck into a space he knows the attacker can’t get to. In Marner’s case, we see it a lot in the offensive zone, but Heidt likes to play the puck into space along the wall, using his stick as well as body position to leverage the oncoming attacker. Retrieving the puck in space allows Heidt an extra spilt second to make a pass up ice, or back to an open defenseman.
If Heidt doesn’t see a play he can make going stick on puck, he has no qualms about engaging physically and throwing his weight around. He does a great job timing body checks, where his focus is clearly on separating the player from the puck, not just driving through his opponent as violently as he can. See below for an example.
In transition, Heidt loves to carry the puck. He is often the Cougar carrying the puck through the neutral-zone, and ultimately into the offensive zone. He is a smaller, slighter built center who can avoid checks and pressure from defenders, but also can bounce off his defenders, while keeping control of the puck and keeping his feet moving. He’s great at drawing pressure right as he enters the offensive zone. That allows him to throw passes into soft coverage cross ice. Even if a shot in open ice is not available, those plays into open ice have allowed Prince George to set up and get prime scoring chances.
While defending the rush, Heidt attempts to use his quick stick to intercept passes. This is where his hockey sense really pays dividends. His reach isn’t overly impressive, and as a result does struggle at times picking off passes that slightly taller players may knab. With that said, he is seemingly always a step ahead, and has no issues struggling to read opponents passes through the neutral zone.
When his opponents drop back to reset, Heidt has the straight line speed, and willingness to be the F1 deep, and does a great job getting in close, forcing the opponents hand. Many times he forces the opposition into a rushed decision and play, and on occasion turns the puck over. A lot of players will hang closer to the their opponents blueline knowing that they may not have the speed to track back, that is not the case with Heidt. He is eager to turn pucks over knowing full well that he has the capability to get back in the play should the opposition break out cleanly.
I notice it mainly when down big in games, and especially in the neutral zone, but Heidt seemingly has a tendency to take himself out of periods. He leaves by the way side his hungry puck-hunting style where he is glued to puck carriers and looking to force turnovers. He’s coasting around with no real purpose, and just going through the motions with stick placements and other details. It feels as though this may be a maturity thing more than anything, and quite frankly, having more on the line at the pro level may snap him out of this. I will be curious to watch next season as he takes a step closer to the NHL.
Heidt has a powerful, mechanically sound skating stride. His slighter frame allows for a lower center of gravity. This allows him to protect the puck better in tight as well as bounce off opponents’ pressure. His stride incorporates good knee bend and ankle flexion allowing for his mobility to be top level. Ultimately this helps to facilitate his constant scanning of the ice, while getting himself to areas where he can be dangerous.
I believe that Riley Heidt possesses the characteristics needed to be a high-end, middle six center. His attention to playing down low paired with his hockey sense, are the main attributes I think he can enhance and feed off that will allow him to play center at the next level. Offensively he has outstanding distribution skills that won’t be lost at the next level, and quite frankly probably take away from some of the chatter surrounding his shot and release. The puck is on and off his blade so quickly, and Heidt has an absolute cannon for a one timer. I have no questions as to whether Heidt can play on an NHL powerplay. He most definitely can, and will.
For Heidt, the next step is filling out his body. Adding some muscle will make him heavier on the puck and make it even harder for defenders to strip the puck off of him. This will lead to further grade-A scoring chances. Overall Heidt is a very strong two-way defender who will almost assuredly hear his name called on day 1 of the NHL Draft.
March 23, 2023
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Ben Jordan. If you would like to follow Ben on Twitter, his handle is @BJordanNHL.
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