It’s been a whirlwind of a road trip for Coyotes forward Tobias Rieder. His father, Manfred Rieder, flew in from Germany with a friend to watch his son play, and two of his own buddies flew in from Germany to soak in some Florida sun and the Coyotes’ games against the Lightning and Panthers.
On Monday, Rieder returned to Washington D.C. for the first time since making his NHL debut — and scoring his first NHL goal — there on Nov. 2, 2014. When this five-game road trip concludes, Rieder will find out if his name is among the first 16 or so chosen for Team Europe at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in Toronto from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1. All eight World Cup teams must submit their initial rosters of at least 16 players (including two goaltenders) by Tuesday, with the announcement of those names coming Wednesday.
“It’s been lots of fun, playing in the city where I scored my first goal and having my dad and a couple friends in the stands,” Rieder said. “I know it’s putting a smile on their faces.”
Rieder has done the same for his coach, Dave Tippett, who can’t stop singing the praises of perhaps the Coyotes’ most underrated player.
“Players grow with experience and opportunity and Tobi has certainly gotten got both of those,” Tippett said. “He’s got a good all-around skill set and he thinks the game very well. Because he’s such a smart player, that allows him to play in all situations.”
Because he is such a smart player, Tippett said Rieder has also earned his coach’s trust.
“Whether it’s the [penalty kill] or all-out work ethic or how strong he is on pucks on the wall — little things like that make a coach feel comfortable with a player,” Tippett said.
Tippett’s at-odds stance with some mainstream analytics is well chronicled, but Rieder is a player on which both the mainstream and Coyotes analytics are in lockstep. His Corsi For percentage, scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances generated when he is on the ice are all good, per waronice.com. He is also excelling in the “deeper” numbers Tippett and assistant GM for analytics John Chayka keep.
“He is without a doubt one of our leaders in several categories,” Tippett said. “They’re all very strong.”
With a nudge from his coach, Rieder set a goal at the start of the season to finish more of his scoring chances. He worked on the accuracy of his shot and speeding his release by firing hundreds of pucks in the offseason.
He has already eclipsed his point total from his rookie season (21) with 34 points this year, and with three more goals, he will top last year’s scoring mark as well.
“I’m feeling pretty good about that but there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” Rieder said. “And sometimes, pucks just don’t go in even when you’re feeling good.”
Rieder has scored just three goals since Jan. 1, but he is diligent about the other areas of his game, even when the goals aren’t coming, displaying an attention to detail that was honed under coach Steve Spott with Kitchener of the OHL, then refined under Tippett.
“Tip always says before the game, ‘whoever wins the most wall battles or puck battles is going to win the game,'” said Rieder (5-11, 185). “I try to use my speed and quickness to be first to pucks, and I think I know how to place my stick in the right spots to get pucks.
“I’m not the biggest guy so I’m not going to outmuscle guys but I know how to get position.”
Two sources familiar with the situation said Rieder is a likely choice for Team Europe’s roster, whether it comes next week or when the final rosters are submitted on June 1. That should put another smile on Manfred Rieder’s face, especially since he nudged his son away from his preferred position as a kid.
“He played goalie in Germany in the second division,” Tobias said. “That’s how I got into hockey and I wanted to be a goalie when I started playing.
“I’ve always been a good skater, though and he told me maybe I should try to be a player first. I was mad about it, but looking back on it now, maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t get to be a goalie.”
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