Edmonton Oil Kings ‘glue guy’ really sticks out
Overager Riley Kieser has been welcome, effective veteran presence this WHL season
Edmonton Oil Kings centre Riley Kieser, left, ties up Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Josh Morrissey during Game 1 of their first-round WHL playoff series March 22, 2014. Kieser has been a strong leader for the Oil Kings this campaign through the regular season and the post-season matchup with the Raiders, which the Oil Kings won in four games.
EDMONTON — Mention Riley Kieser to Derek Laxdal and the coach calls him the Edmonton Oil Kings’ glue guy.
It’s a title that makes sense, in that Kieser is 20 and a veteran in the Western Hockey League. Given that he’s only been with the team this season, though, Kieser’s impact on the Oil Kings has been an instant fit that’s rolled out in fast-forward.
If he’s the glue guy, he’s Krazy Glue.
“Every team has to have a glue guy, and he’s a huge glue guy for us,” Laxdal said of Kieser on Friday, as the Oil Kings rest up after sweeping the Prince Albert Raiders out of the playoffs on Wednesday night. “He’s just been outstanding.”
A six-foot-one, 185-pound centre, Kieser isn’t a high-profile player on the Oil Kings. His 35 points this year were a career high, matching his output from two seasons and 102 games with the Vancouver Giants. Kieser’s two goals and three assists in the playoffs were welcome offence, but it was his off-ice qualities that brought him to Edmonton through a July trade.
“Steve (Hamilton, the Oil Kings associate coach) knew of Riley about three years ago and we actually talked about trying to bring him in or trade for him (then) because we knew of his high character,” Laxdal said.
“He’s been an unbelievable part of our team from the start of the season. Stephane Legault retired, and we brought Riley in from Vancouver and our young kids gravitated toward him right from training camp.
“He put up some good numbers. He had 35-plus points for us, he’s had a great first round, and you have to have those guys to be successful in the regular season and those guys are key performers in the playoffs. You look at the Rhett Rachinskis and the Jordan Peddles, and Riley Kieser is going to be that guy for us.”
Riley’s impact was immediate enough to warrant him wearing the ‘C’ for the Oil Kings in December and early January when captain Griffin Reinhart was off with Team Canada for the World Juniors. He pointed to his family and the players and coaches around him through his hockey years as the source of his leadership abilities.
“I think it’s just values,” he said. “Being hard-working, giving the best effort all the time in everything you do. I think that just shows, and the other guys want to follow that and give a good effort, too.
“Griff has the same set of values, and he’s a great leader and so does Curtis (Lazar). There are lots of leaders on our team.”
For all of his locker room-friendly merits, Kieser’s playoff experience has been minimal, playing just six games with the Giants in 2012. He admitted to some nerves when the Raiders came to town for Round 1 last week, but he settled in quickly.
“He scored a huge power-play goal for us in Game 2 when we were down 1-0 early in the third and then he ... had the game winner (in Game 3). His penalty kill has been outstanding and he’s a great leader,” Laxdal said.
Getting to finish out his junior career in Edmonton has been the perfect setting for the Sherwood Park product. Being an overage player at the Jan. 10 trade deadline was a stressor, but once Kieser realized he wouldn’t be moving, his numbers jumped up.
“At the end of the day, some of the best moves you make are the ones you don’t make,” Laxdal said. “The culture we’re trying to develop within our organization, he just adds another layer to what we’re trying to do.”
“It’s been lots of fun, especially being at home to do it, too,” Kieser said. “Edmonton is known for their good playoff runs and winning championships. I think it’s a big thing here and we want to keep that going. It’s really big, being a 20-year-old in your last year, to go out on a good note like that it’s pretty exciting.”
For now, Kieser is focused on playoff success. He’ll sort out what the future holds for him whenever his season ends.
“He’s got options. He can go try and play pro or if he wants to go to a CIS school — I’m sure the University of Alberta would love to have that character in their dressing room,” Laxdal said.
“He’s a player that I would be really interested to see what he’s going to do if he continues to play hockey at 22, 23.”
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