Riley Damiani might not be very big in terms of stature, but the role he plays on the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers is certainly quite a big one
Clocking in at roughly 5-foot-10 and 173 pounds, natural size isn’t an advantage that Damiani has in his favor. The Dallas Stars’ scouting staff has shied away from smaller players for years, so it came as a bit of a surprise to see them take the Rangers center in the fifth round, 137th overall, in the 2018 NHL draft.
What did they like about Damiani? He plays a big game.
“He’s a player for today’s game, he’s not a huge guy by any means,” Stars Director of Amateur Scouting Joe McDonnell said the day Damiani was drafted. “He’s 5-9, maybe 5-10, but plays like a 6-foot-2 guy.”
The description that McDonnell offered has been on full display throughout Damiani’s first 17 games of the 2018-19 season. The 200-foot pivot has 15 points thus far thanks primarily to his high-end smarts and work ethic, but more notable is how Damiani has been a core, go-to player for Kitchener. He’s spent most of this season anchoring his team’s top line at even strength, while also playing big minutes on the power play and on the penalty kill. He leads the Rangers when it comes to face-off attempts, winning a steady clip of them at 51.9%.
Not bad at all for a guy who is still just 18 years old.
Riley Damiani's wraparound goal in the 2nd. Villalta gets pulled out of position trying to contain the rebound and Damiani makes full use of the gaping net. @OHLRangers #OHL pic.twitter.com/P9WlzCIQ1O— caitlin berry (@caitlinsports) October 27, 2018
Damiani is still a long way away in his development from potentially making the jump from junior to the professional leagues, but at this point the Dallas scouting staff has to be pretty happy with how that draft choice is panning out.
North American Juniors
Ty Dellandrea had a huge offensive week for the Flint Firebirds, picking up five points in three games, but it still wasn’t enough to lift his team to their first win of the season. He’s on quite a hot streak right now, too, picking up 12 points on his current seven-game point-scoring streak. Highlights of a three-point game against the Ottawa 67’s, which includes a pair of beautiful assists, can be found at this link.
Curtis Douglas picked up goals in back-to-back games, and now has four tallies over his past three contests.
Jason Robertson returned to his scoring ways after three uncharacteristic games without finding the back of the net, also producing goals in back-to-back games. His 16 goals on the season have him currently tied for third in the OHL, while his 109 shots is still first in the league by a hefty margin of 20.
Liam Hawel had a good week for the Guelph Storm, picking up five points in three contests. He’s now up to 18 points in 17 games on the year.
Goaltender Jake Oettinger picked up his first win of the season with Boston University, making 37 saves on 38 shots as Boston survived a match against Northeastern.
Rhett Gardner scored his first goal of the 2018-19 season on Friday, but he didn’t stop there, scoring two more to cap off the hat trick.
Joe Cecconi keeps padding his stat sheet, adding two more assists over two games for the University of Michigan.
Jakob Stenqvist picked up two assists in three games for Bjorkloven, bringing his season total up to seven points in 15 games.
As reported Monday by Mark Stepneski in his Prospect Report feature, two of the Stars’ Swedish prospects are pretty proficient in the face-off circle so far this season. Jacob Peterson is winning at a clip of 56.7 percent, while Oskar Back is not far behind at 56.4 percent.
It was a tough week for the Texas Stars, with the team dropping both of the games they played.
Denis Gurianov didn’t light the lamp like he has so often already this year, but he did record two assists on Saturday to extend his team lead in points to 12 in 11 games. A pair of AHL rookie prospects showed up on the score sheet on Thursday, as Adam Mascherin scored a goal and an assist, while Ben Gleason scored his second jaw-dropping goal of the season:
In transaction news, goaltender Colton Point and forward Tony Calderone were assigned from Texas to the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, while Philippe Desrosiers was called up to replace Point. The 20-year-old Point is one of Dallas’s top prospects, but struggled in his last outing. The AHL is an incredibly hard league to play in at that age as a goalie, and there’s no shame in a young goalie playing in the ECHL, as some of the NHL’s top netminders — such as Jonathan Quick and Devan Dubnyk — have completed stints in that league. Desrosiers, a former Stars second-rounder, has three full years of professional experience under his belt and will be looking to prove himself as a pending restricted free agent at the end of the season.