2017-18 Team: Calgary Hitmen (#18)
Date of Birth: January 5, 2000
Place of Birth: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 174 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2018 first-year eligible
- THW (Pike’s Picks): 72nd (final)
- Future Considerations: not in top 100 (final)
- ISS: not in top 31 (May)
- Bob McKenzie: not in top 90 (Mid-season)
- Craig Button: not in top 90 (March)
It’s often said that success is a mixture of preparation and opportunity. Tons of promising young hockey players prepare but never get the chance to show their wares, while the opposite is almost as true in cases where players aren’t ready for the opportunities they’re given. Riley Stotts came into his draft eligible season as a depth player on a stacked team. By the end of the season, he was in a different city playing a much bigger role and making a much better case for himself as an NHL prospect.
Stotts has shown steady year-over-year offensive progression for several seasons. He was really effective in division 2 and division 1 bantam with the Winnipeg Monarchs, then managed to improve on those performances with the midget Winnipeg Wild. He was selected by the Swift Current Broncos 10th overall in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. He debuted in 2016-17 and had a rock-solid performance as a rookie, posting 16 points in 52 games while playing a secondary role.
Unfortunately for Stotts, the Broncos came out of the gates red-hot in 2017-18 and began to load up with an eye towards a championship. Stotts had just 3 points in 22 games to begin the season and slid down in the forward rotation a bit as management began to figure out what they needed to do to push their roster to elite status.
Fortunately for Stotts, one of their tinkers involved a blockbuster trade with the Calgary Hitmen that sent Stotts to a much younger team with a lot less forward depth than Swift Current had. He ended up putting up 41 points in 47 games played with the Hitmen over the remainder of the season. He ended up 8th among first-year WHL draft eligible players in even strength primary points and 10th in primary points per game. Stotts was a very productive player.
In a lot of ways, Stotts is an ideal “middleweight” player. He’s not a big player but he’s not small, nor does he get pushed around a lot. He’s mobile, but he’s not a speedster. He’s good with the puck, but he doesn’t usually dazzle with stick-handling – though he is capable of maneuvering past defenders. You could argue that he doesn’t have a single elite-level attribute, and you’d probably be right, but Stotts’ game is more than the sum of its parts. He works extremely hard, is rarely out of position, and frequently makes his teammates better whether by making a smart defensive play to close off a passing lane or taking the time to wait for holes in defensive coverage to find a teammate. His game has no glaring holes in it, and it’s elevated by his ability to play with pace without losing his attention to detail.
If you extrapolate his 47 games in Calgary over a full WHL season, Stotts is a 60-point player. The big question is whether he’s found his level. He’s progressed so steadily year over year during his teens that it’s easy to imagine his confidence with the puck (and his ability to play a smart 200-foot game) pushing his offensive totals even higher as a 19-year-old in 2018-19. For now, he seems like a fairly low-risk selection for any NHL club in the middle rounds of the 2018 NHL Draft. If his game can keep growing, he could be a tremendous value find.
Riley Stotts – NHL Draft Projection
Stotts projects as a selection in the mid-to-late third round. He could slide into the fourth round, given his somewhat small (47 game) sample size as a scorer this past season.
Riley Stotts did a 360 spin in the offensive zone to (a) shake a defender, (b) get a better lane to the net. It worked, but Dylan Ferguson made a nice save. Crazy move. #WHLHitmen
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) January 20, 2018
“Now you’re starting to look at his game as a whole. He’s a centerman that covers a lot of ice and he’s pretty aware on the ice. He’s growing his whole game, not just with the puck and being able to create offense, but also being responsible away from the puck and developing in that area. In the faceoff circle he’s been doing pretty well, and that’s a big part of his position too.” – Dallas Ferguson, Calgary Hitmen head coach
- Reliable player in all three zones
- Accurate passer
- Almost always in the right position on the ice
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Doesn’t play particularly mean or physical
- Arguably doesn’t have any elite-level attributes
- Could take more risks with the puck to create offense
Other 2018 NHL Draft Profiles
Stotts projects as a bottom six center. If his offense doesn’t develop, he plays with enough pace that he’ll likely be an effective fourth line energy center. If his offense comes along, he’ll be a nice depth piece on any team’s third line.
Risk – 1/5, Reward – 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 7.5/10, Defense 7.5/10
Stotts represented Canada at the World Under-17 Challenge.