When an NHL player is traded from one team to another, one may find it hard to adjust and get rolling compared to others, and sometimes they come swinging right out of the gate. That has been the case so far with recently acquired Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Ritchie.
After being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 19, the forward seems to have quickly found his footing in Arizona, registering five goals and two assists for seven points in nine games so far. While many in Toronto were quick to write off the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft after compiling a mere nine points in 33 games this season, it seems that the change in scenery has sparked a fire in the Coyotes’ new forward.
Finding Sustained Success in Arizona
After a respectable 26 points in 56 games with the Boston Bruins during the 2020-21 season, Ritchie’s game took quite the hit upon signing with Toronto during the offseason. After struggling to start the season, the Maple Leafs demoted him to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. His poor start was only further enhanced by a 3.8 shooting percentage on a career-low 52 shots, and eventually, the Maple Leafs traded him to the Coyotes.
Upon arriving in Arizona, many didn’t expect much to change in Ritchie’s production based on early-season results. The Coyotes, though, knew what they were getting in the Canadian, a player who brought physicality and scoring. A guy who could help mentor while also contributing to a team who, at the time, couldn’t seem to find consistent play.
What they got was much more. Ritchie’s shooting percentage jumped from 3.8 percent to an astonishing 31.3 percent in just nine games, his ice time increased, and he found improved play in linemates like Barrett Hayton, Loui Eriksson, Lawson Crouse, etc. While his profound shooting percentage won’t stay consistent at 31.3 for obvious reasons, there are signs to suggest that he could rediscover his game while in Arizona.
Solid Roster Player For Next Few Seasons
Whether or not Ritchie can find his scoring touch again from his days in Anaheim and Boston, where he recorded highs such as 14 and 15 goals, it’s no secret he will bring stability to the team’s lineup for the next couple of seasons. As the team gets set to move into Arizona State’s new 5,000-seat multi-purpose arena next season, it will be hard for general manager Bill Armstrong to attract many free agents, which is why trading for guys now that are under contract for the next 2-3 years is a big necessity.
If the team can get 10-12 goals out of him for the next two seasons, which he is on pace for currently right now, it will be a nice payoff for the Coyotes in the long run. At 26 years of age, he still is young and can still deliver on both sides of the puck. He’s shown that he can produce and be a physical presence on the ice just last season with the Bruins.
The verdict on this trade is far from being determined, and at the end of the day, both sides benefited from it. Ritchie and the Coyotes still have games to play this season, but based on what’s been observed in his first nine games in the desert, it’s safe to say he’s adjusted quickly to Arizona. What do you think, though? Will Ritchie find his game again with the Coyotes? Let us know below.
Mr. Evans is originally from Greenville, SC where he currently resides. Mr. Evans has been involved in hockey for the past 17 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.