For many who read far too much into titles, the first thing they’re going to do is call me out for jumping the gun by using the words perfect and Ty Rattie in the same sentence. ‘Don’t put too much pressure on the kid!’, they’ll say. ‘Why expect so much so soon?’, others will argue. Those are all fair points, and yes, Rattie is only a couple games into this year’s preseason, so his current production will be far greater than what his totals show by the time the season is done. Admittedly, perfect is a stretch.
Still, after watching what Rattie did at the end of last season alongside Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — finishing with nine points in 14 games — and what he’s done so far in this preseason (4-3-7 in two pre-season games), one has to ask if this might not be the ideal situation for the player and the team? In others words, is this not the “perfect storm” for the Edmonton Oilers?
Ty Rattie: The Player
Expanding on the notion that not one year ago, Oilers fans wouldn’t have foreseen nor asked for a situation where Rattie was on the top line, he isn’t the guy who scares the opposition when you put him on the ice along with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins. Fair enough. Rattie isn’t flashy, he’s not incredibly speedy, and he’s got no proven NHL track record…
Despite all that, there’s something good going on. There’s a buzz suggesting this might be the right guy, at the right time and with the right linemates. A player who’s got a great junior pedigree but kind of came out of nowhere, the optics are ideal to show Rattie can score and so far, frankly, just how much.
In 53 games for Bakersfield last season he had 43 points, 22 of those being goals. He consistently produced points for the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate when he was part of their organization and in junior, he was even better. From 2011-2013, Rattie had 231 points in 131 games. He was unbelievably dangerous and while he’s not shown a consistent ability to translate that insane production to the NHL, he’s come on with his new linemates in a short sample size, giving glimpses that he’s found some of that magic that made him a highly-touted prospect.
It might be way too soon to tell, but what if Rattie is more than just a prospect people gave up on? Maybe he’s the type of player that needed some time to adjust? Maybe he needed the right linemates or to be placed in a situation where he was beside skilled guys playing a skilled game? Maybe he needed to get his head wrapped around what it took to be and stay in the NHL? At only 25 years old, there’s any number of reasons this could be more than a short spurt of offense. If Rattie is not just getting his 15 minutes of fame, the Oilers hit the jackpot.
Ty Rattie: The Contract
Even more, what makes this such an incredible situation (if it works out) is the contract. Rattie is found money. What we’ve learned in recent years in the NHL is that you don’t need three stars on every line. Some of the most successful teams have found pairs with great chemistry and a third man that can accentuate or fill in, gobbling up the easy leftovers. Rattie certainly fits the mold of that type of player.
He’s being paid like an NHL’er who’s merely expected not give this opportunity away. At $800,000 per season, he’s got everything to gain and little to lose and despite the work he’s put in during the offseason, even if he falters, it was expected he might so the pressure’s off.
By many NHL standards, Rattie’s job is simple. Shoot, find the open spots and be ready, his linemates will do the rest. Like Maroon before him, the player the opposition expects the least from could pot 20 goals just by doing the “right thing” every night. If things go really well and doing the right thing turns into being a go-to guy, he’s potentially the next Chris Kunitz or Jonathan Cheechoo. That’s not so bad if you’re looking at this from a cost per point perspective.
For the Oilers, finding that player for under $1 million was absolutely essential to the success of this season. Tight against the salary cap and needing to spread out players like Leon Draisaitl onto secondary lines, Rattie isn’t just a possible solution on that top line, he’s a cost-effective way for the Oilers to be flexible.
One Game at a Time
There are a lot of positives one can find when looking at what’s going on with Rattie thus far. The idea of what could be is exciting. But, before crowing him the answer to many of the problems that ailed the Oilers, it might be best to take this one game at a time.
He’s not played on that top line long enough to know if he’ll be able to withstand the rigors of a full season. Will his production hold up against NHL-caliber talent? Can he even come close to keeping up this pace for 82 games? He’s never had to do so before so no one really knows.
The good news is that the perfect fit doesn’t have to be a long-term one. It would be nice if it was, but for an Oilers team that needs things to go right out of the gate, take what you can get with a player like Rattie and hope even a fraction of what’s he’s doing now carries over into the first number of games this season. If it does, the rest is just a bonus no one was expecting.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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