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Riley Heidt is a playmaking centre the Leafs may select at 28th overall

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Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
10 months ago
The Leafs may currently only have three picks in the upcoming 2023 NHL draft, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make the most of the limited options they have available. How much dividend the 2021 class has already given the team barely two years after it happened shows that quality is better than quantity.
Of course, their first-round pick that originally belonged to the Bruins is going to get the bulk of the attention since that pick could result in a quality player if all goes well. And even though this pick falls in the back half of the opening round, there is still value to be had.
Today, we continue my ongoing series of taking a deep dive into players Toronto could take with their three picks. We shift our focus to BC where a forward has the chance to slip down the draft and right into the Leafs’ hands.

Scouting Profile

Riely Heidt is a Canadian centreman who is currently a member of the Price George Cougars of the Western Hockey League. The 18-year-old stands at 5’11 and weighs 179 pounds which places him slightly below the league average in size.
Heidt’s biggest asset is his playmaking abilities and it is a major reason why he was taken one spot behind Connor Bedard in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. He is a player who can beat you in multiple ways and especially excelled on the power play where he recorded 45% of his points this past season. Heidt also can be elusive when carrying the puck and possesses the eagerness to get up the ice in transition and open up space for himself to create plays. He even has a scrappy element to his game, can ramp up the physicality when the situation calls for it, and is usually in the middle of scrums.
While his offensive game is strong and should bode well for him getting to the NHL level, it’s his play away from the puck that will require some work. His shaking maneuvers and footspeed have raised some concerns among scouts as he can occasionally be behind the play in terms of pacing. Whoever selects him will likely ask him to work on his defensive abilities and be more involved in the play away from the puck. And although his eagerness to get involved in scraps is a blessing, he has already been suspended twice in his WHL career over the last two seasons.
When he does have the puck, it’s clear there are not many players in this draft more skilled and more effective than Heidt. There is a reason why he finished second on the Cougars in scoring during the regular season with 97 points and tied for the team lead during the playoffs.

What the scouts are saying

Ranked #19 by CONSOLIDATED RANKING
Ranked #18 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #19 by FCHOCKEY
Ranked #11 by DAILY FACEOFF
Ranked #20 by THE HOCKEY NEWS
Ranked #22 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
Ranked #29 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #51 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #21 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #26 by SPORTSNET
Ranked #21 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
Ranked #14 by DOBBERPROSPECTS
Ranked #19 by DRAFT PROSPECTS HOCKEY
Ranked #17 by SMAHT SCOUTING
Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News: “Heidt is a pure playmaker who elevates the danger level of anyone on his line with his passing ability. Riley Heidt is a silky-smooth passer who uses deception as a playmaker to enhance his offensive game. It’s not often a player can make passes cross-body or with the puck pulled into his feet the way Heidt does, but that ability to contort his body position and make a pass from irregular positions has been noticeable in Heidt’s game. His one-timers don’t get the love that they deserve because he isn’t well-known as a goal-scorer, but they’re certainly elements of his game that provide value, especially on the power play. Heidt will need to work on upping the pace at times and being a more consistent defensive presence, but the offensive creativity and passing ability are valuable assets for whoever drafts Heidt.”
Nick Richard, Dobber Prospects: “Creative and intelligent playmaker who displays a strong work-ethic. Has great speed and overall mobility, projecting as a top-six offensive driver at the NHL level.”
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “Heidt’s a highly-skilled and intelligent playmaker who can run a power play like a pro and has the hands to break open a shift. He hits seams at a high rate and makes a lot of creative passes. The question on him will be whether a 5-foot-10 forward with mediocre speed and compete is going to make a dent in the NHL. He is elusive enough of a skater too, even though he lacks the footspeed. He kills penalties in the WHL but I wouldn’t call him a high-energy type who wins a lot of battles.”
Steven Ellis, DailyFaceoff: “One of the best point producers in the WHL, Heidt was a huge part of Prince George’s resurgence this year. I know scouts were hoping to see him remain a consistent producer throughout the year – no issues there. It’s his play away from the puck that some are more concerned about.”

Summary

Heidt’s offensive prowess and playmaking abilities should do well in getting him drafted in the first round. However, his lacklustre defensive abilities being a work in progress definitely holds him back from being taken higher up the pecking order, which could make him a player that may wait a bit before hearing his name called.
If that ends up happening by the time it’s the Leafs’ turn, I’m sure they will be very happy to take Heidt. The fact that his play with the puck is already so strong and he adds a bit of snarl to his game could make him a great fit in Toronto’s middle-six. It’s obvious that Heidt will need to improve his play away from the puck and in his own end to increase his chances of reaching the NHL, but he has a strong enough baseline that he is worth taking a chance on.
The sky is the limit for his potential; if all goes well, the Leafs could have themselves one of the steals of the draft.
Stats from Elite Prospects.

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