Riley Kidney is having a monster season in the QMJHL this year, and the Montreal Canadiens 2nd round pick is just getting started.
The 19-year-old is picking up right where he left off last season, leading the Acadie-Bathurst Titans, posting an impressive 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in just 21 games so far this season.
His offensive outburst is not a coincidence, as Kidney has some extra motivation this season: crack Team Canada’s World Junior roster.
Having been an extra forward on the 2022 edition of Team Canada’s gold medal team this past summer, Kidney is looking for a bigger role this season.
“When I got there, I knew I would be in that situation (as an extra forward). I just tried to stay positive, especially when you’re around the best players in the world. It was special to be around them and learn from them,” said Kidney about bidding his time. “The coaches and my agent told me to stay positive and to keep working hard and my turn will come. I knew that if I did that, worked hard and stayed positive, it would help me play in the next World Juniors in Halifax.”
Not only would it be a huge honour for Kidney to once again wear the maple leaf, but he would get to do so in his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“It would be special. It’s what every kid dreams of, especially in your hometown too. It makes it even better,” said Kidney about the thrill of playing on such a big stage in his own backyard. “It would be a dream come true. That’s the biggest motivation. It’s once in a lifetime, not many guys get to experience it. Just having that to think of keeps me motivated every day.”
And boy, has he been motivated as of late. He’s kept up with his 100-point pace from last season without breaking a sweat.
What’s more impressive is that Kidney is keeping up this torrid pace, while leading a much younger and inexperienced Titans roster, who saw most of their top players turn pro or traded away this summer.
In fact, Kidney is currently 12 points ahead of the second-highest offensive player on the team, Jacob Melanson, who has 22 points so far this season.
Despite the Titans being one of the weaker teams in the QMJHL, it would be a whole lot worse without Kidney, who currently accounts for 45% of the team’s overall offence, one of only a handful of players in the league to do so.
“We knew we would have a younger team this year, so I would have to take the game into my hands,” said Kidney about the increased responsibility on the Titans. “Confidence is the biggest key. I got 100 points last year, so I know I can do that now, and I can even do better. It’s a big motivation.”
Much of the 19-year-old’s success this season comes from little tweaks to his game suggested to him by the Montreal Canadiens‘ developmental staff, that believed he had another notch to reach in the QMJHL before jumping pro.
“Montreal told me that I need to work on attacking the middle. So this year, when I have the puck on the wall, I try to attack the middle and be in the middle of the ice, instead of on the outside all the time,'” said Kidney on suggestions made by the Canadiens’ development staff that have made a big difference in his game. “That attack mentality I’ve had since the start of the year to try and bring it (the puck) to the middle, and just create stuff ; it’s always more dangerous than being on the outside. So get to the middle, use my body and get more shots off.”
Kidney continues to put up impressive performances in the QMJHL and the next month will be important in cementing his place on the team, alongside fellow Montreal Canadiens Joshua Roy and potentially even Owen Beck.
For more on Riley Kidney’s experience at Montreal Canadiens training camp, his impressions of Martin St-Louis and his goals for the season, see the full interview below: