Canadiens Prospect Riley Kidney Heating Up, Preparing For Pro
Montreal Canadiens prospect Riley Kidney has had a very eventful year in the QMJHL, but is now laser-focused on chasing the President’s Cup and preparing himself for the pro game next season.
Starting off the year with the Acadie-Bathurst Titans, the writing was on the wall early on that Kidney would eventually be traded before the QMJHL Trade Deadline in early January.
After an unfortunate injury kept him from representing his country at the World Junior Championships, Kidney was eventually trading in a blockbuster deal to the Gatineau Olympiques.
And if you ask Kidney, he couldn’t have asked for a better landing spot.
“Playing on a better team, it’s a lot easier to put up goals and points,’ said Kidney regarding his new team and the impact the move has had on his game. “The start of the year in Bathurst, we struggled a bit, but, here, we’ve got a great team and I got two great linemates. So far it’s working perfectly, and we have had good chemistry the last few games.”
Although Kidney remains focused on trying to end his QMJHL career with a championship title, he’s doing so with an attentive eye on what’s coming next.
Preparing For Next Step With Montreal Canadiens
Kidney is having an exceptional offensive season in the QMJHL, with 20 goals and 47 assists for 67 points in just 39 games. His points-per-game pace is expected to increase even higher, as his offensive numbers have exploded since joining the Olympiques; with six goals and 16 assists for 22 points in only eight games.
Despite all the points he’s accumulating, Kidney is much more worried about how he plays the game, rather than collecting points; he’s using this time to prepare himself for something bigger.
Whether it be with the Montreal Canadiens or, more realistically, with the Laval Rocket, Kidney understands that he needs to prepare now for what comes next; using every second he has on the ice to simulate what it would take at the next level.
“Next year, I’ll be turning pro, so, during each game, I try to focus on having pro habits,” said Kidney regarding how he’s preparing for his eventual jump to the AHL or NHL next season. “For example, stopping on the puck, forechecking hard, finishing checks and just playing at a faster pace; because I know next year is going to be a whole other level. It’s one of the things that Montreal told me to work on in playing with a faster pace; and it’s one of the biggest things I’m focusing on in each game and each practice too.”
Although the 19-year-old has shown significant growth in his speed of execution and his pacing of late, he also acknowledged that there’s a tall task ahead of him this summer.
Standing at 6′ and 175lbs, Kidney knows he’s going to have to add some lean muscle to his frame in hopes of increasing his strength and explosiveness on the ice as he makes the transition to the pro game.
“I think my conditioning is good, but I need to gain a lot more muscle; getting stronger and faster,” said Kidney regarding his need to add mass to his frame this summer. “My footspeed, my explosiveness, needs to get better, because everybody at the next level is fast and explosive. So, if I want to play well, I really need to work on that. This summer is an important summer for me to focus on the gym and gaining as much muscle as I can.”
Thriving Under Pressure
The youngster remains up to the challenge, both on and off the ice; as the biggest the obstacle gets, the higher the pressure mounts, the better he feels he can get.
And the stats back up that notion.
In 17 QMJHL playoff games at ages 17 and 18, Kidney has four goals and 21 assists for 25 points; showing that he’s able to elevate his game when all the chips are on the board.
He also understands that nothing compares to the pressure to win in Montreal, but, that only seems to get him even more excited about the prospect of playing at the Bell Centre one day.
“I like the pressure. It kind of makes me more motivated to play. It makes me play better and fuels me,” said Kidney regarding his play in high-pressure situations. “It makes me excited to have people relying on me. That’s the best thing about hockey, when people lean on you and you produce. That kind of situation gets me excited and I’m eager to do it one day for the Montreal Canadiens.”
It will be a very interesting spring for the Montreal Canadiens’ 2nd-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He saw what Nick Suzuki did in the Spring of 2019 after being traded to the Guelph Storm and leading them to an OHL Championship and Memorial Cup berth and his hoping he can do the same for Gatineau.
It’s no small task, but, the obstacles don’t faze him; instead keeping his eyes firmly on the prize.
This was only a snippet of our interview with Riley Kidney. To listen to the full interview in podcast format you can check out Montreal Hockey Now: The Podcast below:
Based on our franchise’s injury woes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the poor kid gets injured training his heart out this summer.