By: Theo Lander | Follow me on Twitter @lander_theo
The Bruin’s newest crop of young talent assembled at Warrior Ice Arena for their closing scrimmage to end their week at development camp on Friday. While the prospect pool was full of talent, one player stood above the rest and made an immediate impact each time he touched the ice. Riese Gaber was that player.
Riese was not selected by an NHL franchise during this year’s draft in Montreal, which marked his third year of draft eligibility. He is fresh off of a 37-point sophomore campaign at the University of North Dakota, in which he led his team in scoring. This should not surprise those who have watched Gaber before, as he has amassed 105 points in 107 games in the United States Hockey League for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. This kid has a knack for filling the net and does so in often spectacular fashion:
The winger stands at 5’8” and weighs around 160 pounds at just 22 years of age. Many will mistakenly assume that he is restricted to a certain playstyle on the ice based on his stature, which may be one reason why he was overlooked in the draft in the first place. However, the Manitoba native plays the game as if he held a much larger frame. Often spectators will give credit to smaller players that assert themselves in the “tough areas of the ice” despite having significant size disadvantages.
While this is true for Gaber, he goes a step above that standard. He has an ability to win physical battles for loose or contested pucks that other players of his size simply do not. Riese is not afraid to throw his body to get optimal positioning and utilizes an active stick in these battles. He does not seem to be held back by his frame whatsoever and often makes efficient use of it.
Stating the obvious, he has a tremendous set of hands that hold up even playing at high speeds. This is essential to his game, as he is frequently seen flying up and down the ice. On multiple occasions on Friday (and throughout his playing career), he was able to generate effective offense in situations that others would not have been able to by gaining space through his dekes. Riese also does not seem fazed when physically confronted by much larger players and repeatedly maintained possession on these plays.
What I believe will set him apart from the field is his ability to stop on a dime and change direction. His balance is sublime, allowing him to shake off defenders in the offensive zone, which typically leads to prime scoring opportunities for himself and his linemates. Within his first few possessions, it became clear why he was able to amass those aforementioned point totals.
The real question is, how will Riese’s playstyle convert to the NHL level? He has proven to have consistent success at multiple levels of amateur hockey, but general managers tend to shy away from players of his size due to concerns about their physicality. While he did not seem to have an issue with this at the Bruin’s development camp, this remains to be seen at the top level.
As for Riese, he will now head over to Detroit for a similar trial with the Red Wings. While he is planning on returning to the NCAA for his junior year, he is bound to be one of the most highly touted free agents when he makes the jump to the major leagues. The good news for Boston fans is it seems he has already made quite the impression with the Bruin’s brass: