The Guelph Storm’s season may have ended in disappointment after a 6-4 loss to the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the 2019 Memorial Cup semi-finals, but the Philadelphia Flyers should be pleased with the progress of their 2017, 35th overall draft pick Isaac Ratcliffe.
Over the last several weeks, the team went on a run for the ages through the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. The Storm overcame multiple series deficits, including a 3-0 hole to the London Knights, to capture the J. Robertson Cup. The Storm entered the tournament as long shots despite a bounty of talent that includes Ratcliffe, Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, and Los Angeles Kings prospect Sean Durzi.
Isaac Ratcliffe Showing Progress
When the Flyers first selected Ratcliffe in 2017, the forward was a raw talent. More project than prospect, Ratcliffe presented a unique bundle of attributes that needed refinement and growth. After his stellar play in the OHL playoffs and Memorial Cup, the forward is poised to deliver on promising talent. The forward has put on weight, allowing him to better use his 6-foot-6 frame to protect the puck. He has also greatly improved his stick handling ability. This was shown in a highlight reel goal against the CHL goaltender of the year, Ian Scott of the Prince Albert Raiders, in the Storm’s final round-robin matchup.
— ✖- Guelph Storm (@Storm_City) May 21, 2019
Isaac Ratcliffe has also continued to work on his skating, a crucial skill in the more speed-oriented style of play in the new NHL. His ability to make adjustments, skate at high speeds, and move in front of the net is elite for a player of his towering stature.
Ratcliffe’s stellar play showed up on the scoreboard, finishing with three goals and three assists in four Memorial Cup games.
The Memorial Cup served as proof of Ratcliffe’s growth. It also revealed areas in which he must still improve. Chief among these issues is showing discipline in key situations. The left winger finished the tournament with eight penalty minutes in four games. These were often crucial mistakes including a stick infraction that led to Rouyn-Noranda’s opening goal in the semi-final matchup. When at his best, Ratcliffe plays a physical game, so taking penalties will happen. These infractions, however, must not occur in crucial situations when his team needs him on the ice.
Playmaking ability is another area that Ratcliffe needs to develop further. He is capable of making high-level offensive plays, but often foregoes passing in favour of playing the puck along the boards. Ratcliffe’s center, Nick Suzuki, serves as the primary playmaker for the Storm first line, and it shows. As a left wing, it is not Ratcliffe’s priority to be a passer, but more poise with the puck would be a dangerous weapon.
Projection for Isaac Ratcliffe
Ratcliffe will likely start next season playing for the Flyers AHL affiliate, The Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He should definitely grow, however, into a legit NHL player with top-six potential. Ratcliffe could develop into a premier power forward, a dying breed in today’s NHL.
His unique mix of skating ability, soft hands, and hockey IQ should protect him from the pitfalls that power forwards face in the modern game. He could be a perfect fit as the net-front presence the powerplay has missed since the departure of Wayne Simmonds. This diverse set of skills make Ratcliffe an exciting prospect for the Flyers organization.
Look for Ratcliffe to play most of next season in Lehigh Valley but could be a full-time NHL player by the 2020-21 season.
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