Philadelphia Flyers prospect Isaac Ratcliffe has the potential to become a key player down the road for the organization. The young forward who turns 21 in a couple of weeks is currently in his first full season with the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He has been considered a top prospect for the club, including right before the 2019-20 hockey season began.
With the regular season in the AHL ending in a couple of months, I wanted to look at how Ratcliffe has been progressing so far. Before that, though, here is some background for those who might not know about him.
Prior Hockey History
Ratcliffe gained the attention of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team, the Guelph Storm, and was eventually brought aboard to suit up for the squad. He had a decent first campaign, notching five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 46 games. His second season is where he broke out, however, posting 28 goals and tallying 26 assists for 54 points in 67 games.
He caught the eye of Hockey Canada with his play, which led to the young man representing his country – Ratcliffe played for Canada’s Under-18 team in 2016-17 and produced two goals in five contests. He also garnered the attention of NHL scouts from around the league, and his potential was measured for how good Ratcliffe could be in the future.
Considered a solid talent, Ratcliffe was eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft, and was selected in the second round by the Flyers, who had used their previous picks in the draft to snatch up Nolan Patrick at second overall and Morgan Frost in the late first round.
Then-Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was attracted to what Ratcliffe could bring to the team and was not afraid to spend trade capital in order to move up in the second round to take him. Hextall traded a second-round pick, third-round pick, and a fourth-round pick (all of these picks were in 2017, and the fourth-round pick was originally one for the New York Islanders) to the Arizona Coyotes in order to nab the pick to select Ratcliffe.
Right off the bat, the Flyers sent Ratcliffe back to Guelph, where he continued his upward trend of offensive production. He had continually shown more and more progress and was becoming the talent that Flyer fans had hoped would benefit their franchise in a couple of seasons. He posted the following numbers during his tenure with Guelph:
- 2015-16: 5 goals and 8 assists for 13 points in 46 games
- 2016-17: 28 goals and 26 assists for 54 points in 67 games
- 2017-18: 41 goals and 27 assists for 68 points in 67 games
- 2018-19: 50 goals and 32 assists for 82 points in 65 games
He was constantly beating his own records set in previous seasons with the Storm in goals, assists, and as a result, overall points, and was developing into the threat that opposing teams did not want to go up against. The team and fellow players appreciated the leadership skills that Ratcliffe also brought to the table, especially with being on the Storm for a few seasons. He was named team captain during his final campaign with the junior club.
After this fourth season was in the books, it was time for the next step of the growth process: the AHL.
His 2019-20 Campaign So Far
Heading into the 2019-20 season, Flyers fans were hoping that they would see some transition from Ratcliffe from his days with the Storm. If he could become the same offensive threat that he was in the OHL, it would look pretty promising that the Flyers hit the nail on the head with his selection in the draft.
Ratcliffe did have a brief two-game stint with the Phantoms during the 2017-18 AHL season (where he did score a goal), but the Flyers felt it was in the best interest of both him and the organization if he went back to Guelph the following season in 2018-19. Now, in 2019-20, he would be spending his entire season in the AHL, unless he were to get recalled to Philadelphia.
So far, the results are not where some fans might want them to be. Ratcliffe, as this article is being written, has laced up the skates for the Phantoms in 41 games, where he has tallied five goals and seven assists for 12 points. He currently ranks 11th on the team in scoring. Ratcliffe brings more to the table, though, and this cannot be overlooked.
Ratcliffe is 6-foot-5, and having size like that has benefited so many other players in the past, based on some of the names and the impact they have had in the NHL. If he can learn how to use his size to his advantage, then I think he can be a valuable asset to both the Phantoms and maybe eventually the Flyers themselves.
Being able to transition from one league to another can be a difficult task, and there are many players who unfortunately are not able to pull it off. I believe that it is still too early to make a judgment on Ratcliffe right now (as I previously mentioned, he is only about to turn 21 in a couple of weeks and, on top of that, is a rookie in the AHL). There is still growing that needs to be done, and I think the Phantoms are doing the absolute best they can in order to help mold Ratcliffe into the potential NHL player he can be.
I have confidence in Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon and the rest of the staff in Lehigh Valley that they are doing what they can to tap into the potential of Ratcliffe. An NHL future is down the road in my opinion, and with some more minor-league games, more learning experiences, and more grooming of him by the coaches and fellow players, he will be able to grasp at that potential.