Riley Kidney is perhaps the best-kept secret in the Montreal Canadiens organization, as the former 2nd round pick in 2021 sits 3rd in QMJHL scoring after having just turned 19 a few weeks ago.
With fellow Montreal Canadiens and QMJHL prospect Joshua Roy getting all the mainstream attention lately for his historic season, Kidney has flown under the radar to a degree for many Canadiens fans, but the young pivot is on a mission to change that. His motivation has been to up his game in the big moments and get people talking en route to earning his own entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
“I want to sign a contract with the Montreal Canadiens,“ said Kidney about what motivates him in the present. “I want to make people talk, and having a strong playoff stretch will help that in a big way. Hopefully, another strong performance will help me sign a contract with them.”
Elevating his game when all the chips are on the table is nothing new for Kidney; it’s what got him noticed by the Montreal Canadiens in the first place. To shed more light on Kidney’s improvement over the last year, Montreal Hockey Now sat down with the 19-year-old to go over the second half of the 2020-2021 season and 2021 QMJHL playoffs that led to his selection by the Montreal Canadiens in July 2021.
A History of Clutch Play
Kidney’s mention of another strong performance down the stretch and into the playoffs is no accident; it’s his clutch play and his ability to elevate his game in critical moments that drew the eyes of the Montreal Canadiens eyes in the first place. Before the pause in the QMJHL, which forced the whole league to shut down from Christmas to early March 2021, Kidney was having a very respectable year in the QMJHL for a draft-eligible player, putting up 13 points in his first 15 games. Kidney spent most of that time off preparing and getting more and more eager to make an even bigger impact once the QMJHL was ready to give its players the green light.
When the QMJHL opened up again in March of 2021, Kidney hit the ground running. With 18 games left to cement a playoff spot for his Acadie-Bathurst Titans, Kidney put up seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points down the stretch. He then continued his steep progression curve by potting an impressive 17 points in just 9 QMJHL playoff games, all while being the Titans’ most pivotal player. He was kept off the score sheet for only one game out of the nine that he played in the QMJHL playoffs, proving that his offence was consistent, and not simply due to feasting on their 1st round opponents.
“I feel like I’m a player who really brings it in big games. So last year, after the pause, every game was super important, and I turned it up,” said Kidney on his meteoric rise up the draft rankings last spring.” I knew I needed to have good playoffs to get drafted where I wanted.”
These performances caught the scouting community off guard in a very positive way, but the Montreal Canadiens, who had spent a lot of time watching the Maritime Division in the QMJHL (as evidenced by their drafting of Kidney and William Trudeau in July 2021,) had their eye on him right from the get-go.
Riley Kidney was 92nd on McKenzie's rankings, he deserves to be significantly higher. Really strong playmaker, leads all QMJHL DY guys in EV primary points/game. pic.twitter.com/9U88tOegiy
— draft guy (@DraftLook) April 21, 2021
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens
“Leading up to the Draft, I had two zoom calls with their entire scouting staff and then a questionnaire. I probably talked to them about three or four times, “said Kidney on his interactions with the Canadiens leading up to the 2021 NHL Draft. “I knew they were interested through my agent, who told me that they liked me, but I just didn’t know if it would happen.”
The Montreal Canadiens walked into the 2021 NHL Draft with the last two picks in the second round, the 63rd and 64th overall pick, the latter of which was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a deal from the year prior. When the Canadiens went to speak at the podium, Kidney was nervous, as his goal had been to get drafted in the 2nd round. When the Montreal Canadiens finally selected Kidney, the organization’s highest-picked player from QMJHL since Zach Fucale back in 2013 (36th overall), the youngster was elated.
“I didn’t even know what to expect going in, whether I was going in the second or third round,” said Kidney. “Then I saw Montreal had the 63rd and 64th pick, and I was kind of on my toes because it’s the Draft; it can go any way. Then I heard my name, and I was happy.”
What’s next for Kidney?
Kidney took his selection by the Montreal Canadiens to heart and worked relentlessly to show he was worthy of such a selection. He spent the summer working hard and getting stronger and faster in order to get ready for the Montreal Canadiens Rookie Camp in September 2021. Since Day 1, his goal has been to continue impressing the Habs’ brass en route to his first NHL contract, a goal that should be attained in short order if he continues on the rapid progression he’s shown over the last 12 months.
“I know what I did last year in the playoffs. I have all the confidence in the world that I can be even better this year,” said Kidney. “I want to make some noise and have a great playoff and help the team go far.”
In our next piece on Riley Kidney, Montreal Hockey Now sits down with Riley, coach Jason Clarke and recent Tampa Lightning signee Bennet MacArthur to discuss his progress this season into a top-3 scorer in the QMJHL.
#GoHabsGo Riley Kidney with a great primary assist here. Takes on two Wildcats, steals it, then puts it on a platter for Bennett MacArthur. @ABTitan have the lead mid-second pic.twitter.com/c3pyMUxDZF
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 12, 2022