Nick Ritchie is one of the top prospects for this June’s NHL draft. In early February we ranked him at number seven in our draft rankings, and he’s a player who has been on the rise all season. Here is what I had to say about Ritchie a few weeks ago.
Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough Petes, (6’2″ 215 lbs): The brother of Dallas Stars draft pick, and 2013 WJC Team Canada member Brett Ritchie, Nick is finding his own way as a power forward prospect winning gold with Team Canada at the 2013 IIHF Under 18 tournament, and again at this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament. Due to shoulder issues, he played in just 41 games last season, but managed to put up 35 points on an understaffed Peterborough team. He seems to have answered the questions about any lingering injury issues with 23 goals and 48 points in 42 games this season. A power forward prospect who finishes his checks, and plays a very straight line game, taking the puck right to the front of the net and not caring if he has to go through a defenceman to do it. He has a powerful skating stride, and excellent balance, but could stand to work on his speed as it is just average (for this draft class) right now. He loves to stand in front of the net and has the quick, soft hands necessary to score on rebounds and deflections. Ritchie might have the best wrist shot in this draft class. It is tremendously powerful, and features a very good release. It can be in the back of the net before the goaltender even knows that he’s shot the puck.
In an update to that, Ritchie is now at 32 goals and 62 points in 51 games. He’s been on quiet the streak with nine goals and 14 points in his last nine games.
Yesterday, I had another opportunity to watch him live as his Peterborough Petes team was in Mississauga facing the Steelheads. The Petes won 4-0 and Ritchie scored a second period goal utilizing that tremendous wrist shot and release from the top of the slot. I can’t say enough about that release, it is tremendously quick, and might be at an NHL level right now. He gets the puck off so quickly, and it was in the back of the net before anyone in the rink knew what happened, including Steelheads’ goalie Spencer Martin. Ritchie also impressed me with his strength on the boards, as he was overpowering Steelheads defencemen in board battles. One other thing I noticed about Ritchie last night was that his first step quickness is also very good. While he is merely average when we talk about straight line speed and skating a long distance, he is very agile and has a great first step which helps him beat other players to loose pucks in the offensive zone.
After the game I had the opportunity to catch up with Ritchie and he was nice enough to answer a few quick questions for me.
LWOS: Hi Nick, thanks for taking the time to speak to us at Last Word.
Ritchie: No problem, thank you.
LWOS: How has coming up in a hockey family, with an older brother already having gone through the OHL, and drafted by the Dallas Stars helped you going through your draft season?
Ritchie: It’s helped quite a bit. Anytime you have someone to lean on for stuff like that, its pretty cool and he’s gone through the things I’m starting to go through now and its great to have him to talk to.
LWOS: You scored a nice goal tonight, can you take us through that play?
Ritchie: We had a clean entry out of our zone, and (Eric) Cornel drove the net and left the puck for me. I let a pretty good shot go, and it went in.
LWOS: Your team made a trade at mid-season to bring in Hunter Garlant from Guelph. He’s been playing with you on the top line, and it looks like the two of you have some immediate chemistry. Can you tell me about working with your new linemate?
Ritchie: It’s been great. Ever since he came over its been awesome. We’ve really been on a roll since the move and we are hoping that continues heading into the playoffs here.
LWOS: You certainly have size and play a physical game out there. Is there any NHL player you are a fan of, or try to model your game after?
Ritchie: I dont think there is any one particular guy, I just try to look at a few of the bigger guys and take a little bit from each of them. I watch guys like Jamie Benn, Ryan Getzlaf, Milan Lucic, they are great players who use their body well.
LWOS: You have some international hockey experience with two gold medals last summer in the Under 18 and the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Can you tell us what a gold medal game is like, and leave us a prediction for Sunday’s Olympic Game between Canada and Sweden?
Ritchie: Obviously the level I played at isn’t even close to the same stage as what we will see Sunday. Still its a one-game thing and you have to put it all out there. I like the way Canada has played so far and I predict that they will get it done and bring home the gold.
LWOS: Thanks for doing this Nick, and good luck down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Ritchie: Thank you for having me.
You can follow the Peterborough Petes as they head down the stretch of the OHL season at their website and on their twitter account – @PetesOHLhockey. You can follow Nick Ritchie on twitter – @ritchboiii
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