Edmonton - June 24, 2014 - Last night TSN’s Bob Mckenzie released his final Draft Rankings list. This list is always very telling as it combines the rankings from various sources including TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button, The Hockey News, ISS, Hockeypropsect.com, McKeen’s Hockey and the NHL Central Scouting, all to form what is believed to be the Top 60 prospects of the draft.
The list is a great indicator for the top 10 specifically, beyond that it becomes murky but one thing is for sure it gives us a good idea of how those first ten picks are going to go down. Teams have their own lists of course, and in a draft such as this one, where the top of the draft is such a tight cluster, team need takes on a very significant role. Nonetheless it provides a solid base for us to take a look at how things could play out this Friday. The list can be found here, but for our purposes here is the supposed Canucks selection.
#6 Nick Ritchie
Ritchie is a LW who played with the Peterborough Petes this past season in the OHL where he was the Assistant Captain. He is listed at 6’2 218 lbs. Button describes him as:
”Blend of skill, power and size is second to none. Excellent shot that can overwhelm goalies. He has the capability of being brilliant yet is still growing as a player. Scary thought! He's a man-child”
That is an interesting descriptor, and provides a nice image of the potential of Ritchie. Ritchie has the size and power of a potential power forward, and if he can translate his speed and shot to the NHL level could be a solid top 6 player for the Canucks down the line. He uses his size and strength to force his will on opponents. He has been compared to the likes of Jamie Benn in terms of style of play. That would obviously be a dream scenario.
ESPN Insider Corey Pronman, who does an excellent job scouting prospects and reporting on them every single year, had this to say about Ritchie:
”Ritchie's physical game is fantastic. He's 6-3, 235 pounds and aggressive. Ritchie attacks defenders, and is great protecting the puck. It will obviously be harder on him in the pro game, but it was near-impossible to get the puck off of him at the junior level. ... He's got a good skill level, too. Ritchie's shot is of the high-end variety with a lot of weight behind his snaps. His defense needs some work, and he has a tendency to disappear at times (which is difficult for such a large player).”
So consistency appears to be an issue, but this is often true of many developing power forwards and quite often what keeps certain prospects from being in the conversation for the top of the draft. However the power of this young man should not be underestimated, his shot and ability to fight off defenders is very positive. He could conceivably become a one-shot scorer with the ability to dominate the offensive zone with his size and strength. Makes me think of Todd Bertuzzi before he lost his game…
Nick Ritchie had this to say about his style of play in an interview with Jason Menard of hockeysfuture.com
“I think I’m a bigger guy, so if I play hard and physical, be hard on the puck, and take pucks to the net, everything they want in a big guy,” he said. “Just play a big man’s game and that’s all you can control.”
The Advanced Stats
Using the wonderful reporting tool provided by extraskater.com, we can further break down Ritchie’s season. I am going to focus in on even strength scoring, as this is the best indicator of future scoring success in my opinion. At evens, Ritchie had 2.5 P/60, his Point Share Percentage (which measures the percentage of goals scored when he was on the ice, he had a direct hand in) is 76.7%. Ritchie scored 74 points (39G, 35A) in 61 games, and of those 74 points 46 (22G, 24A) came at even strength. He was a fixture on the power play for Peterborough, and was matched up against the top opposition players. His estimated time on ice was 22 minutes per night, and he was used sparingly on the penalty kill.
These numbers tell us that while his even strength scoring could’ve been more impressive, it is obvious that Ritchie is going to be a guy that will be a top 6 complimentary player, with a shot that will make him a fixture on the power play unit. Once he fully develops he will be a force on the puck, and unlike lots of big players has the speed to keep up with smaller skill players. This will allow Ritchie to find open opportunities in the offensive zone so that he can unleash his shot. He looks to be a very solid pick at #6, and maybe has less risk than a guy like Ehlers or Nylander.
I personally would still be thrilled with Ehlers having his name called at #6 by the Canucks, but playing in the Pacific Division means having big powerful goal scoring forwards in your top 6 is very important, and as such I wouldn’t be disappointed with Ritchie having his name called.
Canucks Eyeing The Top Pick?
Rumors are swirling that there is an offer on the table that Florida GM Dale Tallon believes is fair value for the first overall pick. The rumor surrounding the Canucks is that Benning has offered the 6th pick, Hunter Shinkaruk, and another unnamed prospect for the first overall pick. Shinkaruk was taken 24th overall in the 2013 Entry Draft, this past season he suffered a torn labrum in his hip which held him to just 18 games. In those 18 games 16 points. He had season ending hip surgery on January 7, 2014. Anytime a young player misses nearly a full season it can have a very negative impact on the development path of that player.
If this is indeed the offer, and if the Panthers believe this is fair value, would you be happy? The difference between first overall and sixth overall is quite significant, but with Aaron Ekblad as the projected first pick, is that Vancouver’s target? Ekblad projects to be a very solid defenseman in the NHL. He plays in all disciplines, but his high level ceiling has been questioned by some scouts. They worry his foot speed will hold him back at the NHL level. What if the Canucks made the move for the right to draft Sam Reinhart? Does that change the conversation? Reinhart is the smartest player in the draft, but he isn’t a big bodied bruising player. Some believe he will settle in as a RW at the NHL level. His skill cannot be denied though, he is one of the elite in this year’s draft.
So if Vancouver makes that deal for first overall, and it comes down to Reinhart or Ekblad, who do you hope for? Me? I stay away from defenseman at 1st overall. It is risky, the transition for defenders to the NHL level is more turbulent and far more difficult to predict. If the move was made though, the Canucks would getting either the best defender in this year’s draft or one of the three elite forwards, either way it would be a very good day for Vancouver.
The Canucks according to Mckenzie’s list will end up with Nick Ritchie. The scouting reports on Ritchie as a potential power forward with one shot scoring ability and speed to compliment his game are very encouraging. Ritchie may well be the perfect fit for the Canucks, especially within the Pacific Division. It sure would be thrilling to see the Canucks make a solid move for the top of the draft and have their choice between Ekblad, Reinhart, Bennett and Draisaitl. Will Benning make a splash? Or will he sit tight and take a solid prospect at 6th overall? We will know soon enough.
This article uses information from tsn.ca, extraskater.com, and thescore.com