The pressure if off, insists Guelph Storm forward Isaac Ratcliffe.
Even though the 17-year-old is in the midst of the most important season of his young career.
Ratcliffe, of course, is eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft.
“I’ve been talking to my coaches and players who have gone through this situation already,” Ratcliffe started, “and they’ve really kept my head on my shoulders here so I think I’m prepared going into this year.”
So far, so good.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound left wing is off to a torrid start to the 2016-17 season.
Ratcliffe, 64th in Future Considerations’ Fall ranking for the 2017 draft, has seven goals and 17 points through the opening 19 games of the Ontario Hockey League season. Both totals eclipse his seven-goal, 13-point campaign as a rookie last year.
It’s come with the draft distraction.
Thanks in large part to his teammates.
“They told me to focus on the little things, and stay on my game and don’t really think about what’s happening in the future,” Ratcliffe said. “Just stay in the now and focus on that next game ahead, rather than in the next year or so.”
A lot can happen between now and the two-day event held June 23–24, 2017at the United Center in Chicago.
The London, ON native is hoping that to be true in some cases.
Ratcliffe is banking on being a better player by the time the draft rolls around.
“I definitely need to get stronger and work on my skating, too,” he said. “I mean, moving on to that next level its definitely a huge difference from this level here, too playing with bigger faster guys and definitely stronger, so definitely areas I need to improve on.”
He’d be building on an already impressive package.
The big-bodied forward uses his size to his advantage and doesn’t hesitate to throw a big check to set a physical tone. But he’s also got impressive hands in tight spaces, and is effective in several facets of the game.
“I’m a big guy that can work in the corners well and play really well in front of the net,” Ratcliffe said. “I can use my size to get around players and I think I can really bring a lot to the table in any position.
“A guy in the NHL I like to model my game after is Rick Nash. He uses his body really well but he doesn’t go around trying to take any guys out or anything like that. He’s definitely an offensively minded player too, but he plays really well in the defensive zone too.”
While the expectation isn’t that Ratcliffe will develop into the first overall pick from 2002, there’s plenty of intriguing upside.
But he isn’t focused on the future.
Isn’t fixed on draft day.
He’s just focused on the now.
“I didn’t set too many long-term goals,” he said. “I tried to focus on little short-term goals to make steps up like winning battles in games and game set situations.”
With files from Dylan Galloway