When the Philadelphia Flyers selected Isaac Ratcliffe 35th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft he came with immense potential, soft hands, a nose for the net, and a great scoring touch, all wrapped up in a massive 6-foot-6 frame. What the Flyers didn’t bet on was that Ratcliffe would turn into an exceptional leader.
Prior to the 2018-19 OHL season Ratcliffe was named captain of the Guelph Storm by head coach George Burnett, making him the 28th captain in franchise history. Burnett had high praise for his newly-appointed captain:
His work habits on the ice and in the gym set an excellent example for everyone in our organization. Through his hard work and dedication, he has emerged as one of the elite players in the Ontario Hockey League.
Burnett seems to have made the right decision calling upon Ratcliffe to lead the Storm, he responded by scoring 82 points in 65 games regular season games, including a whopping 50 goals.
Leading an Improbable Playoff Run
Ratcliffe’s regular season was certainly impressive, but his leadership in the OHL Playoffs has been truly masterful. Under Ratcliffe, the Storm marched through the first round, sweeping the Kitchener Rangers in four games. Ratcliffe chipped in six points in the opening round.
The second and third rounds are where Ratcliffe truly shined. Against the London Knights in the second round, the Storm fell behind 3-0 in the series, one of the most inescapable deficits in all of sports. Yet, the Storm survived and advanced, winning the next four games in a row to advance to the Western Conference Final, the fifth team in OHL history to accomplish such a feat.
In those four wins, Ratcliffe scored another six points, saving his best performance for the do-or-die Game 7; he scored two goals, back-to-back to take a 4-3 lead in the game, and the series. He also added an assist in the game.
In the ensuing series, the Storm trailed the Saginaw Spirit 3-1, and once again Ratcliffe rallied his team to a series win, picking up another 4 points in games that the Storm faced elimination. After all was said and done, he totaled 10 points in seven elimination games played, with a stellar plus-8 rating. On the whole, he’s compiled 22 points in 20 total games so far, helping his team to an OHL Championship appearance.
Road Ahead for Ratcliffe
Ratcliffe still has time for more playoff heroics as the Storm now face the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL Final, and already face a 2-0 series deficit. At this point, the Storm and Ratcliffe know that there’s no hole they can’t climb their way out of. Another series win will clinch the Storm a spot in the Memorial Cup where the best CHL teams will vie for the title of Canada’s best junior team.
If Ratcliffe can lead the Storm into the Memorial Cup, he’s that much more likely to get a long look at training camp next season, and could very well start the year with the Flyers.
The Flyers could use another young leader in the locker room, especially after the loss of noted leader Wayne Simmonds. Ratcliffe’s goal-scoring ability would be just as useful, especially in the bottom-half of the lineup.
Ratcliffe’s Future Looks Bright
For a team to make miraculous comebacks in a seven-game series, not once, but twice, they need a leader with incredible resolve to lead the way. A leader who can extract the best out of his teammates and lead by example. Ratcliffe has shown that resolve in spades thus far in his short time as captain.
If Ratcliffe can translate his goal-scoring prowess to the NHL, he’ll be a valuable player for a long time. If he can continue to lead, and set an example for his teammates on and off the ice, the Flyers will have gotten more than they ever bargained for when they traded up to select him.
It seems only right that an immense physical specimen like Ratcliffe has the heart, drive, and intensity to match his gargantuan frame.