Riley Damiani is an OHL center plying his trade for the Kitchener Rangers. Hailing from Mississauga, Ontario, he stands a decent 5’10” but according to Elite Prospects, weighs only 161 pounds, so size will be a concern as he progresses beyond junior hockey.
Riley’s overall production in the OHL over the last two seasons does not look great initially on paper. His total point production combined since joining Kitchener is well under a half point per game. However, he has impressed enough scouts to gain decent rankings heading into the draft, enough that he can be seen as a mid-to-later round prospect. Is he someone NJ will be looking at? Let’s dig into him a little bit.
Who is Riley Damiani?
As I just mentioned above, his scoring stats do not look like someone who would be a decent draft prospect this year. In his initial season in the OHL last year, he produced a measly 22 points in 62 games played, with only 9 goals. This year, when you usually see a large boost in production among those about to be drafted, we really do not with Riley. In 64 regular season games, he generated 37 points. That is indeed a 15 point boost from last year, but 0.58 points per game in your draft eligible season is not dominant production by any means. And this is in the OHL, where four players produced over 100 points in a regular season lasting under 70 games.
Despite the relatively poor regular season production, however, Damiani really crushed it in the playoffs. Kitchener made it to the semifinals, meaning he was able to gain 19 games of valuable playoff experience heading into the draft. And he made the most of it, producing 12 points. Considering his regular season production, that is a quality boost in performance, one that certainly turned the heads of some scouts.
Because he came up through the Canadian system, however, he was unable to make the major Canadian junior international teams over the last two seasons. Surely he would have in most any other country, but Canada has a large player pool to choose from. He did play with Canada once internationally, at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge in 2016-17, producing 3 points in 5 games, fairly quality numbers for international play. So while his regular season OHL numbers are lackluster to be sure, his playoff and international numbers are much better, even if with a small sample size.
Where is Damiani Ranked?
Central Scouting has Damiani as the 100th ranked North American skater entering the draft. This is slightly improved from the midterm rankings, where he was #119. That is a decent jump, close to a round in terms of the draft and when you factor in European players and goalies. That ranking probably has him going around the 5th round, whereas #119 might be in the 6th.
However, there are other rankings of him out there that could help to make his potential landing position on draft day clearer. Future Considerations has Riley ranked as the #75 overall player. That is clearly a 3rd round selection, much higher than what Central Scouting sees him as.
The Draft Analyst, however, is much lower on Damiani than Future Considerations is. In his final 500 rankings, he has him as the #181 overall player. Pick #181 is late in the 6th round, seriously far away from where Future Considerations would take him. Very interesting.
In Draft Site’s 7 round mock, they are closer to the Draft Analyst than Future Considerations. They have him going near the end of the 5th round, pick #153, to Winnipeg. Back in April, their mock had him going 115th to Vegas, and February had him going 110 to Colorado, so he has dropped since then.
What Others Have Said About Damiani
The OHL Writers have a nice profile up about Damiani that came out a few weeks ago. The write up is quite positive overall, especially for a mid-later round selection. There are some needs for improvement, but the positives outweigh those by a lot. Here are some snippets of positives from them: “Damiani’s skating stands out. His first steps and acceleration are almost at an elite level…he will never shy away from taking the hit to make a play…there are few players that play with the intensity and work ethic that Damiani does…While he will never be mistaken for a physical player, he will never shy away from battling along the walls…you can’t help but be impressed with his hockey smarts, which include his vision and anticipation skills.” Now for the needs: “He’s just okay at keeping possession…he can control adding some much-needed bulk and muscle…The other thing Damiani needs to work on, if NHL teams see him as a center at the next level, is faceoffs. He was just 46% on the dot during the regular season. That number took a huge hit in the playoffs where he went 90 for 256 or 35.2%.” Overall, decent outlook I would say.
His OHL team, Kitchener, did a player spotlight on him back in December with quotes from Damiani himself. Here are some quotables from the piece: “Time after time he’s found himself drawing into the team’s top-6, and he appreciates the fact that the added responsibility also comes with the added opportunity to learn from teammates who have achieved their dream of being drafted by an NHL team…I like to think the pressure helps boost me up to another level…I worked hard at my conditioning, and it’s paying off now in how I feel out there.” Nothing crazy from this piece, but it gives decent insight into him as a player.
The Hockey Writers had a post discussing five underrated prospects from the OHL heading into the draft. One of those players was Damiani. Here are some quotes from writer Mark Scheig: “Damiani is a candidate for my annual steal of the draft article which comes out in June…He’s on my board as one of the first few picks of the third round at 65th overall…Why isn’t he getting the love? Sadly, I think the size argument is a major reason. I also think many will look at his numbers and walk away uninspired. Damiani is a case where you have to look closely to get a full story…this center has some skill and isn’t afraid to drive the net…Not only can Damiani score, he can skate and makes smart decisions with the puck. He can also play both special teams units. The NHL has plenty of room for this kind of player even if he stands just 5-foot-10…he might be one of the best overall values of this draft.” This is some good praise, and ranking him 65th overall is the best we’ve seen yet. Again, as noted here, his numbers are uninspiring, so you would have to really love his game despite that fact.
A Little Video
Here is a two goal game he had back in March against the Guelph Storm. He wears #13:
Here is a sweet goal he had in the playoffs this year against the Sarnia Sting:
As mentioned above, and as you can see, there is a fairly wide window in which analysts think Damiani could and should go. You have THW and Future Considerations who have him in the third round, Central Scouting and Draft Site pegging him around the 5th round, and the Draft Analyst projecting a late 6th round grade. To me, this means there are different angles on which he is being judged: those who are solely judging him based on his point production over the last two seasons, those who are solely judging him based on the eye test and what they feel about his game on the ice, and then those in the middle.
To me, looking at both should probably be the best answer, although how much weight to put on both is the tough part. But either way, I would think that we should begin to look at him around the 5th round. And considering the picks New Jersey has, this makes sense. NJ has one pick each in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds. If he goes as early as the 3rd round like a couple analysts think, then NJ has no chance anyway, so it’s all good. If he falls into the 4th-6th round range, however, then we can start to analyze what Shero should do.
The 4th round pick for NJ is at #110, round 5 at #136, and round 6 at #172. While there is an outside shot, more than likely however he will be gone by #172 unless all 31 teams feel the same about him that the Draft Analyst does. That would then leave picks #110 and #136 in which Shero could draft this kid. To me, 110 is too early. While his game might look really good on the ice, his production just isn’t there, and to take someone in the 4th round who has overall point production under 0.5ppg in the OHL over the last two years is really a reach in my mind. Future Considerations and THW would disagree there, but to me, the numbers just cannot lie to that big of a degree. At 136, however, I think a shot on Damiani would be warranted. If he play on the ice is that appealing despite his poor point production, then perhaps that will perk up over the next couple of years. If it does, he could potentially become a viable bottom 6 forward in the NHL. That is worth a shot in the 5th round. Could you see him go earlier to another team, however? Absolutely. However, if he is there at 136 for the Devils, I would have zero issue with taking him there.
What do you think about Damiani, now that you have read up on him? There is such a wide diversity of opinion about him which makes his case interesting. Do you agree with those who think him a 3rd round talent, or are you more expecting him to go in the later rounds? What do you think about him going at #110 for NJ, or #136? Or do you think he could fall to NJ at #172? Do you think it is worth it for Shero to take a shot on him? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!