Heading into the 2011 NHL Draft, there were a lot of concerns around Brett Ritchie’s game.
Despite being listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he was not seen as much of a physical player. In a pre-draft review by The Scouting Report, this lack of physicality was touched on, and it was stated that he can be inconsistent with his game.
Also working against him was a bout with mononucleosis during his draft year. Not to mention, he wasn’t exactly the most notable player on the 2010-11 Sarnia Sting, as 2012 top three picks Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk often overshadowed him.
Still, he posted respectable numbers in his draft year: 21 goals and 20 assists in 49 games. The total was good for fifth on the team despite the fact he missed 19 games.
Those numbers were good enough to catch the attention of the Dallas Stars, who took Ritchie with the No. 44 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
“Brett is a big strong winger. He has good hands, shoots the puck well and goes to the net. He has a lot of upside; he will dig in at the walls and works hard,” Stars scout Jimmy Johnston told ESPN Dallas back in June 2011 following Ritchie’s selection.
The two biggest knocks on Ritchie were his lack of physicality and his inconsistency — sometimes labeled as laziness. Perhaps that was due to battling with the mononucleosis, which can have negative effects on a person’s energy for long periods of time. Regardless of the reason, Ritchie said that he relishes playing physically.
“I think I play the prototypical power forward game,” he told Chris Edwards of Fox News. “I’m good along the boards, dependable on both ends of the ice, like to win puck battles, chip in on offense and play physical. When I play my best, it’s because I’m playing physical.”
He entered the 2011-12 season healthy, looking to make his mark. As it turned out, that wouldn’t happen with Sarnia
After 23 games, in which he registered only 15 points, he was traded to Niagara for three second round picks and a fifth round pick.
The trade was perhaps the break Ritchie needed to get his game back on track. Playing on a much better team — with players like Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome and fellow Dallas draft pick Jamie Olekesiak — Ritchie put up 30 points in Niagara’s final 30 games.
But still, Ritchie hadn’t broken into the national consciousness as a potentially game-breaking prospect. That was, until earlier this month.
Ritchie made headlines following an absurd three-game stretch in which he tallied 10 goals and three assists. For that, he was named the CHL Player of the Week for the week of Oct. 29 to Nov. 4.
Having developed a reputation as a hot-and-cold player, the question became whether or not Ritchie could keep up this production. So far, he has. Teaming up with Strome to form one of the most lethal scoring duos in the CHL, Ritchie currently ranks second in the OHL in scoring, behind only Strome. His 20 goals is tops in the league.
Unfortunately for Ritchie, he will probably have to prove, at least for the rest of this season, that his offensive outburst isn’t an outlier; part of his inconsistent play, but rather the player that he truly can be.
Additionally, having played much of his junior career with supremely talented players — Yakopuv, Galchenyuk and Strome were all top five draft picks — he will eventually have to prove that he can be a player who is capable of standing alone and making players around him better.
But for now, Ritchie gets to continue to grow at the OHL level. But his recent success has put his name on the map for Stars fans.
Ryan is currently a senior at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH. He covers the school’s hockey team for The BG News, the student newspaper at BGSU. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Ryan_Satkowiak.