Name: Nick Ritchie
Position: Left Wing
Junior Team: Peterborough (OHL)
Rankings: NHL CSS – 7th (NA), ISS – 10th, Justin’s List – 8th, Bobby’s List – 10th
I’ve spent more time talking about Nick Ritchie over the past few weeks than I’d like to admit. Amongst Leafs fans, who have taken exception to apparent “safe picks” made by Toronto with recent first round picks, there’s a very real paranoia surrounding the eighth overall pick.
“Like, what if they take Nick Ritchie? Isn’t he like Tyler Biggs 2.0?”
Nick Ritchie is a gifted offensive winger who happens to have better-than-NHL-average size as an 18 year old. While he’s certainly used his impressive frame to his advantage this season, watching just a few minutes of tape should be enough to convince most that there’s very real skill there inside that big body. This isn’t a grown man running roughshod over children.
Ritchie skates very well for such a large guy, and when he gets a full head of steam he’s very difficult to slow down. He’s as tall as a lot of the big forwards available near the top of this draft, such as Leon Draisaitl, Michael Dal Colle, Jake Virtanen and Brendan Perlini, but the extra 20-30 pounds Ritchie has on those four makes him a much more menacing physical threat.
That being said, Ritchie isn’t ranked in most people’s top ten because he’s simply a big guy. Ritchie has a good set of offensive tools. He’s not flashy, but he protects the puck well with his skating ability and size, and once he finds an opening in the offensive zone, Ritchie makes use of his great wrist shot.
McKeen’s 2014 NHL Draft Guide has a really neat section where the rank the “Best” prospects in different categories, such as Best Skater, Best Shot, Best Stickhandler, Best Hockey Sense, Best Playmaker and so on. Nick Ritchie shows up on only one list, topping the Best Hitter category. This isn’t a negative, and it’s obvious that Ritchie has skill, but wouldn’t you feel a lot better if Ritchie was also recognized as the best-something else?
Is he a good choice?
Yes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking Ritchie at #8. That second tier of prospects (anything beyond the top four or five) is so close together that picking a Ritchie over an Nikolaj Ehlers, or vice versa, largely comes to down personal preference. Despite vastly different styles of play, I’m not convinced that one of them is more likely to succeed in the NHL than the other.
What are the scouts saying?
“Ritchie exhibits tremendous patience with the puck when under pressure and regularly gets the puck on net. He makes good, crisp passes to teammates’ sticks, and he possesses a dangerous and extremely hard and quick selection of shots.” – Future Considerations 2014 NHL Draft Guide
“Ritchie’s hockey sense can also come into question with his decision making off the rush… oozes pro potential due to his blend of size and burgeoning skill set… must understand that he has the ability to be a difference maker on each shift and play both ends of the ice… boom or bust tag attached.” – McKeen’s 2014 Hockey Draft Guide
Milan Lucic. Ha ha ha.