Player: Nick Ritchie
Drafted By: Anaheim Ducks (10th overall)
Position: Left Wing/Right Wing
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 7 North American skater
Height/Weight: 6'3'', 229 lbs
DOB: December 5, 1995 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: OHL, Peterborough Petes
After earning the reputation as one of the top forwards as a minor midget AAA player, Nick Ritchie was taken second overall in the OHL priority draft by the Peterborough Petes. During the 2011-12 season, he was one of the youngest players in the league.
That didn't stop him from scoring 16 goals and adding 23 assists through 62 games for the Petes. Ritchie was clearly an improved player as a sophomore, scoring 35 points in 41 games, despite missing a slate of time with a shoulder injury.
Ritchie continued to improve in his third season, posting 39 goals in 61 games as he started to show signs of the power forward he could evolve into at the NHL level.
Full Scouting Report
There are a handful of similarly talented players available in the 2014 draft. Numerous forwards seem to have slick hands and lean more towards the sniper or playmaker mold. Ritchie is a budding power forward through and through.
As Gare Joyce of Sportsnet.ca put it: "No need for a program if you’re looking for Nick Ritchie: At six-foot-three and 235 pounds, the only thing on the ice that’s as big as him cleans the ice between periods."
In fact, Ritchie might be a bit too big. His massive 229-pound frame prevents him from getting up and down the ice with much haste—a negative at the NHL level, but one that can be ironed out with some focus. There's plenty to like from the Orangeville, Ontario native despite his average wheels.
Ben Kerr from LastWordOnSports.com profiles Ritchie this way:
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.
You don't see many players compared to Cam Neely or Wendel Clark, but Kerr spoke to one scout who apparently thought that Ritchie was a "throwback" to those kinds of players.
NHL Player Comparison
There aren't a lot of forwards in the NHL these days that can score 20-plus goals, while racking up the PIMs. That limits the number of guys who make sense for Ritchie comparisons, but think Milan Lucic or Jamie Benn here.
For most forward prospects, the thing that is preventing them from making it to the NHL is a lack of muscle. As we've established, Ritchie has plenty of that. It's just a matter of whether or not he has the speed needed to hang at the NHL level.
If he gets into great shape over the summer and increases his quickness, then there's no reason Ritchie couldn't be in the NHL for the 2014-15 season.
Who wouldn't love to see the second coming of a guy like Neely or Clark? Lucic has that distinction locked down right now, but Ritchie could be the next great power forward to emerge. As a winger that loves to stand in front of the net, Ritchie has the skill set needed to make an impact as a top-six forward and on the power play.
With Jarome Iginla set to retire in a year or two, the torch needs to be passed to someone. Why not Ritchie?