Ritchie following in brother’s steps

Christian Roatis2014 Draft Center

Brothers tend to have a lot in common with each other, which stands especially true for Ritchie siblings Brett and Nick.

Brett Ritchie, the oldest of the two, is a second round pick of the Dallas Stars and stands an intimidating 6-foot-4, 218-pounds. He’s a skilled power forward with strong skating ability in spite of his size. He’s got quick hands and a powerful shot that make him a noticeable scoring threat at all times on the ice.

And by describing Brett, you’re not far from describing Nick Ritchie, eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft. Nick too, is a force to be reckoned with on the ice, scoring goals and crushing bodies. He stands a similar 6-foot-3 and a slightly heavier 236 pounds.

The Peterborough Petes standout leads the team in offense with 20 goals for 45 points in 41 games and according to Future Considerations scout Connor Mulligan, that’s one of his main strengths.

“He handles the puck tremendously – one of his best assets, in fact – and can both shoot the puck as well as make a good pass when presented with the decision,” Mulligan said. “He knows when to join the rush and when to hold off, keeping his positioning in check. Jumps into the play really well and always seems to get open in the offensive zone.”

It may come as no surprise that goals and points are not simply the only categories Ritchie leads the Petes in.

He also resides atop the penalty minute list, with 96 on the year and his bruising style of play commands the respect of opponents and makes them work for every inch of the ice. There are no free rides when the Orangeville, ON. native is on the ice.

Like all junior level players, Ritchie has his share of areas that require some improvement – mostly notably skating and defensive zone play, noted Mulligan.

“He was mostly the last guy back and didn’t skate as hard back as he could of,” Mulligan said. “He was ok in own zone, but there’s room for improvement in all aspects of that side of his game.”

The improved awareness and play in his own zone will come with age, as will his overall speed. As he gains lower body strength, Ritchie will be able to transport his sizeable frame around the surface with greater ease and the pace of the pro game will also push him to improve his foot speed.

In spite of his minute – although at times, noticeable – deficiencies, Mulligan was extremely complementary of the younger Ritchie.

“The utilization of his size and his puck control are impressive assets and that package will be an attractive one for teams come draft day,” said Mulligan. “In my eyes, he’s definitely a first round draft pick and reminds me a lot of Dustin Byfuglien when he played forward.”

Quite the compliment for an upcoming player who sits seventh in Future Considerations’ February ranking for the 2014 NHL Draft.

And come June, he will undoubtedly follow in his brother’s footsteps and hear his name called at an NHL Draft – possibly even sooner, than Brett did.