(Gatineau) Year after year, the Canadiens’ hopes are scrutinized. But one of them, curiously, has long escaped scrutiny, despite his convincing performances. His name is Riley Kidney.
Kidney was selected in the second round by the Canadiens in 2021. He signed his NHL entry contract last year. In September, he was one of the 74 players invited to the CH training camp.
While some, like Owen Beck, turned heads, Kidney was more understated. Perhaps for this reason, little has been said so far about this Nova Scotia native center player.
“Before coming here, I knew that people didn’t talk a lot about me,” the principal told La Presse. “I always felt like I was a bit in the shadow of other rookies. Since I came here, I’ve done a lot of interviews and things like that. I get more coverage,” he adds candidly, and without the slightest bitterness.
“Here” is Gatineau. Kidney arrived there last January, after being acquired from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan by the Olympiques. Since then, the 20-year-old forward has “opened the eyes” of many, according to his coach, Louis Robitaille.
Since January 7, the day of his second game with the Olympiques, Kidney has scored in every game for his team. A collection of 65 points in 29 games; stunning numbers. But his feats of arms do not stop there. In the playoffs, Kidney scored 4 goals and collected 14 assists in 9 games, helping his team reach the semi-finals, a duel against the Quebec Remparts which will begin on Friday.
At the mention of all these statistics, the sympathetic Nova Scotian sketches a shy smile. “I wanted to be the guy who was going to bring a lot of offense to the team,” he said. There are the points, of course, but none of this could have happened if I hadn’t had such good line partners. They helped me a lot and I helped them too. »
This is far from the first time that Kidney has distinguished himself on the Cecchini circuit. Last year, in Bathurst, he quietly amassed 100 points in 66 games. Since January, all eyes are now on him. His prowess is noticed.
“[People] see his evolution, the way he has performed since he arrived here […], supports Louis Robitaille. It gives him a pat on the back saying: yes, I knew I was in the best, but here I am. »
Riley Kidney signed his entry-level NHL contract with the Canadiens in May 2022. During training camp last September, the youngster passed in a whirlwind; he was among the first cut off.
“I was not satisfied,” he admits himself. I did not play at all as I am capable of. I was nervous, I was thinking too much. »
Last January, Kidney and Robitaille went to Montreal for a medical evaluation with the doctors of the Canadian. As long as they were there, they attended the evening game. Leaving the Bell Centre, the young man and his coach ran into CH vice-president of hockey operations, Jeff Gorton, and general manager, Kent Hughes.
” It was good ! exclaims Kidney. It’s rare that you have the opportunity to speak with both of them, so it was nice. They told me, ‘Keep working hard, you’re doing a good job. »
“It was a good boost of confidence,” he adds, visibly still delighted with this encounter.
According to Louis Robitaille, Kidney is just waiting to learn and grow. “He’s very self-critical, hard on himself. He’s a very perfectionist guy. He wants to make a difference. »
Since January, the coach has helped his player to become more complete, so that his transition to the pros next year will be easier. Barring a surprise, Kidney will play with the Laval Rocket in 2023-2024.
“There’s nothing wrong with going to the minors and learning the hard way. […] It will be good for his development. I think he will work his way through the organization over the years. He will learn. »
This work, Kidney is eager to begin. Or rather to pursue it. This season, the director of hockey development, Adam Nicholas, sent him videos to advise him. “He showed me to attack more in the middle, it creates more chances because that’s the danger zone,” he explained.
During the summer, Kidney plans to travel back and forth between Halifax and Montreal to train. He wants to add muscle to his 6ft, 175lb frame and improve his explosiveness on skates.
Even if he will appear at the next camp with the objective of breaking through the line-up of the Canadiens, the forward knows that he should spend the next season in Laval. And it suits him perfectly.
“I went there last year, during the playoffs, and I saw the atmosphere there. It was really loud and cool. »
He also began to learn French in Gatineau. An interview in the language of Molière soon? “Maybe in a few years!” he replies, laughing.
Riley Kidney grew up in Nova Scotia. It was his two-year older brother, Liam, who introduced him to hockey. “I wanted to be like him,” he says. When asked if he was a Canadiens fan, the young man smiled, even blushed. “Montreal fans won’t like it, but I was a Bruins fan,” he blurts out. “When I was younger, my room was painted black and yellow. I was a huge fan. Obviously when I got drafted I changed a bit! “, he exclaims, laughing.