Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2014 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2014 Draft Articles Click here.
The brother of Dallas Stars draft pick, and 2013 WJC Team Canada member Brett Ritchie, Nick Ritchie 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 39 goals and 74 points in 61 games this season. He has added eight points in eight playoff games so far, and scored the Game 7 Overtime Winner against the Kingston Frontenacs, as his Petes erased a 3-0 series deficit in advancing to the second round.
LWOS recently interviewed Nick Ritchie. To read that interview click here.
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Dec 5 1995 — Orangeville, ONT
Height 6.03 — Weight 229 [191 cm/104 kg]
Nick Ritchie is 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 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. That wrist shot is already NHL ready. He is powerful in board battles, overpowering defencemen and winning pucks. While plenty of Draft Eligible prospects need to add muscle to their frames before going pro, Ritchie is already built like a truck. On top of that he’s still got room to get even bigger and stronger.
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. One thing that really helps though, is that he has a very quick first step and good acceleration. This really helps him to pounce on loose pucks in all three zones. While he might not win a 100 foot race to the puck against a quicker NHL player, he is going to win plenty of 10 foot races to loose pucks.
Ritchie shows his physical game in all three areas of the ice. He just loves to hit and can back check hard and get involved with the physical game in his own zone and supporting his defence. Sometimes this can get him into trouble as he needs to be disciplined to ensure he doesn’t take penalties, and also needs to avoid getting out of position looking for that hit. Still he’s a committed defensive player, and appears to be improving over time, showing a willingness to learn this aspect of the game.
Ritchie is also not afraid of dropping his gloves. He will fight to defend teammates and himself, and doesn’t care who his opponent is.
The anonymous NHL Scout we talked to had this to say about Nick Ritchie: “He’s like a throwback to the days of Cam Neely, Bob Probert, Wendel Clark, and Gary Roberts. How many players in the NHL today can score 25 or more goals in a season and can also beat you up? I can only think of one, (Milan) Lucic. (Jarome) Iginla used to be that way, but doesn’t fight as much anymore. Nick Ritchie has that package, and he won’t last long on draft day because of it.”
On his wrist shot, “Its off his stick so quickly. He has the best shot I’ve seen in this draft. He can score a lot of goals in the NHL with that shot.”
In terms of style, we have to agree that we see a lot of Milan Lucic’s game in Ritchie. As with all our comparisons that isn’t a potential thing, just a style thing. In terms of potential, Ritchie’s ceiling is to be the elite powerforward that every NHL team craves.
Here are some highlights of Nick Ritchie.
Check back tomorrow for my number 7 ranked prospect.
Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter – @lastwordBkerr. Support LWOS by following us on Twitter – @LastWordOnSport – and “liking” our Facebook page.
Interested in writing for LWOS? We are looking for enthusiastic, talented writers to join our Hockey writing team. Visit our ”Write for Us“ page for very easy details in how you can get started today!