In this week’s edition of the Arizona Coyotes 2021-22 offseason player reviews, we’ll take a look at forward Nick Ritchie. After being acquired along with a conditional draft pick ahead of the March 21 trade deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Ryan Dzingel and defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin, the Canadian would suit up for only 24 games with the Coyotes this past season.
Upon arriving in the desert with a renewed sense of hope and optimism after early struggles with the Maple Leafs, Ritchie was looking for a fresh start with a shot at more ice time and better chances to get his game back on track. Fortunately for him, his arrival to the Valley was just what he and the team needed, sparking his game and helping him turn his season around in just a short time.
Ritchie’s Season in Review
Ritchie’s start to the 2021-22 season was not what he had hoped for. After registering nine points on two goals and seven assists in 33 games with Toronto, the Maple Leafs sent him down to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, where he played two games before being dealt to Arizona. Upon arriving to the Coyotes, he quickly found his spark, recording 14 points on 10 goals and four assists in 24 games.
His ice time increased, his shooting increased, and he found improved play in linemates like Barrett Hayton, Loui Eriksson, Lawson Crouse, etc. Ritchie provided a physical presence to an already physical Coyotes team, delivering an eye-opening 74 hits in just 24 games, while also proving to be a solid and reliable third-line role player for Arizona down the road.
What Ritchie Can Improve On, Build Off Of
While on paper he looked to be a solid pickup for the Coyotes, providing offense when needed in the later half of the season, Ritchie showed flaws in his game, which he’ll need to work on for next season. At points he showed a lack of discipline this past season for both the Leafs and Coyotes, racking up 43 penalty minutes in 57 games. In addition, he faced a one-game suspension this past season for slashing Anaheim Ducks’ defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in the head. He struggled at times with the puck as well, turning it over 17 times, while registering a plus/minus of minus-6 with Toronto and minus-7 with Arizona.
Despite struggles in his overall game this previous season, Ritchie showed flashes of his former self, one who recorded 31 points during the 2018-19 season with the Ducks and 26 points in the 2020-21 season with the Boston Bruins. He’s not afraid to get physical or fight for a puck in the corner. He drives hard to the net and has a knack for putting home loose rebounds. He plays a strong two-way game and dominates along the boards. He stepped up when asked, especially after star forward Clayton Keller went down with a season-ending injury late in the season.
Ritchie’s Next Move
Going forward, Ritchie looks to continue to build off his success with the team. After joining the team late, he was able to provide offense and defense to a depleted team limping to the finish line. If he can replicate even half of his success from last season over a full 82-game season with the Coyotes next year, he will be a solid supporting piece for the team moving forward towards the future.
One thing is for certain, the Coyotes’ roster is not set in stone for this upcoming year. Plenty of guys are looking to earn significant ice time next season. Spots in the lineup are not set as of yet. Next season is big for the Coyotes as they enter Year 2 of a lengthy rebuild. Ritchie will be one of the team’s leaders going into next season as he looks to grow off the previous year.
What do you think of Ritchie? Let us know in the comments section below. Next week is defenseman Dysin Mayo.
Mr. Evans is originally from Greenville, SC where he currently resides. Mr. Evans has been involved in hockey for the past 18 years now, following the Arizona Coyotes and St. Louis Blues. During his free time, Mr. Evans enjoys spending time with his family and girlfriend as well as being up in the mountains or taking pictures. Prior to joining The Hockey Writers, Mr. Evans previously worked for The Puck Authority, covering the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL and FanSided’s Bleedin’ Blue, covering the St. Louis Blues. You can find Mr. Evans on Twitter at @HaynesPEvans.