GLENDALE, Ariz. — The NHL is getting faster by the day. Teams that built their core around physicality when the Los Angeles Kings were winning Stanley Cups are finding out that they’re quickly becoming the NHL’s version of Wile E. Coyote.
The Arizona Coyotes don’t have anyone as prolific as former No. 1 overall picks Connor McDavid or Nathan MacKinnon, but they do have a handful of players that can hold their own in the speed department. While Max Domi may be the first name many fans think of, fellow forward Tobias Rieder deserves your attention.
In Thursday night’s 4-3 loss to the Kings, Rieder’s speed was on full display. He created several scoring chances for himself early on by simply catching Los Angeles defensemen off guard as he barreled into the zone with the puck.
He nearly gave the Coyotes a 3-1 lead early in the second period when he blew past defending Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty, forcing the defenseman to grab him just feet from the net. The crowd yearned for a penalty shot, but only a simple two-minute minor for holding was assessed. Although some in attendance thought otherwise, Rieder thought it was the correct call.
“It was more like a battle than a breakaway,” Rieder said. “I tried to cut in front of him so I think that call is right.”
That speed was on display on the penalty kill as well, with Alec Martinez almost falling victim to a highlight-reel shorty.
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The third time was the charm, however, as Rieder was rewarded later in the game on a play very similar to the first two. With a little more than six minutes remaining in the third period, Rieder motored past Doughty from the blue line in and backhanded a shot past Los Angeles goaltender Jeff Zatkoff to tie the game 3-3 just nine seconds after the Kings took the lead.
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“He’s a dangerous player,” head coach Dave Tippett said. “The NHL is a fast league right now and he’s a fast player. We’ve got some guys that should watch him play.”
Those are just a few examples of what Rieder brings to the table. Aside from his ability to generate scoring chances with the puck, his play away from the puck is what makes him a special talent. Tippett lauds the 23-year-old’s two-way game.
“I see a top-notch, excellent 200-foot player,” Tippett said. “There are some other guys who could be sitting on the bench watching that.”
Rieder is a primary figure on a PK unit that kept Los Angeles scoreless on the man advantage in six opportunities on Thursday. He earned 4:18 of short-handed ice time, second only to Jordan Martinook among forwards. He was one of only four Coyotes that were not on the ice for a goal against. Shane Doan, Laurent Dauphin and Ryan White were the others, but all three played fewer than 12 minutes while Rieder played 17:25.
Thursday was a microcosm of what Rieder brings to the table. He’s not going to pile up a ton of points — he had a career-high 37 last season — but he touches so many areas of the game that his value simply can’t be deciphered by scouting a box score. So while his six goals and 10 points in 20 games may not jump off the page, it’s hard to watch a Coyotes game and not notice No. 8 on the ice.
There’s a lot of value in that, especially considering that can’t be said about a number of players on a team that sits at the very bottom of the standings.