This is the fifth article in our Oilers Draft Watch 2011 series.
At the 1:00 mark, Brett Ritchie shows the effort and drive that some scouts say is lacking from his game. Ritchie is a 6'3" 210 manchild of a right wing, who plies his trade for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. He's faced criticism in quarters for not being physical enough and not bringing a consistent game night in and night out.
#20 / Right Wing / Sarnia Sting
July 1, 1993
|2010 - Sarnia Sting
Ritchie was overshadowed in Sarnia this season by Nail Yakupov, the forward who may go first overall in the 2012 draft. But Ritchie had a quietly effective season. He posted 21 goals in 49 games played and a respectable -1 rating. He had a year-long bout with mononucleosis and was sidelined for a month. Dan Sallows talked to him about it in a recent interview:
You battled mono for the better part of the year, but still managed to rack up 21 goals. How frustrating was that for you, knowing that this is your draft year, and when did you finally get your strength and energy back?
Brett: Being diagnosed with mono was tough, it came at such an inconvenient and crucial time in the season. I was lucky that it was somewhat of a mild case and only missed a month. I feel as though I was back to 100% after a month and a half of being diagnosed.
Mono is the same virus that slowed Sean Couturier through the season and Couturier is taking on some of the same criticisms as Ritchie. Kirk Luedeke has Ritchie ranked 42nd overall, but is generally complimentary:
"Ritchie is a big kid with a nice stride who does all the things you want from your power winger along the walls. He takes the puck to the net, shields it effectively when in possession and cycling. He's not a real baggage smasher who goes out of his way to wreck guys, but will give a hit and take one. "
Luedeke was able to grab a video interview with Ritchie at the combine as well, be sure to check it out. In that entry, Luedeke deals some criticism at Ritchie, saying "...Doesn't do enough banging and physical work to be considered a true power forward in the eyes of some."
Brock Otten ranks him as the 13th-best skater coming out of the OHL, saying Ritchie was up and down in 2010-11.
"The tale of two seasons for Brett Ritchie. Through the opening months, he did not look great. But just around the holidays, things really started to heat up for him. I saw him play during that extreme hot streak and he was a beast. He was physical, playing both ends of the ice, driving hard to the net and putting home the puck. But then came the bout with mono that really crushed the momentum he had created for himself."
Otten points to the mono as a huge factor in his season, while also calling Ritchie "a beast" when he was on. I assume the video above is from a similar period. Ritchie is willing to drop the gloves when called upon and Luedeke mentioned his willingness to both take and deliver hits. He's a phsyical player for sure.
The Scouting Report is the sour on Ritchie, ranking him 54th overall, and points to laziness as a factor:
"...A big winger with a good shot, Ritchie can be a pretty effective sniper when he’s on his game. The symptoms in his game we’re not overly fond of is that he is inconsistent, and while shielding the puck well, he doesn’t really play with any sense of physicality. If you see him play regularly, you will probably even find that his game can be plagued by laziness..."
Central Scouting has Ritchie ranked 36th among North American forwards and while Central Scouting isn't known for negative soundbytes, it is curious that Chris Edwards notes his physical play, "...He uses his size well, fights through checks and is tough along the boards." TSN's Bob McKenzie also has Ritchie ranked 36th and asks for more consistency from the big man.
Even though he struggled with inconsistency, wasn't as physical as expected and struggled with a season-long bout of mono, his -1 was a the best amongst regular Sting forwards. Not only that, Ritchie's .429 goals per game measures up extremely well with other higher-ranked prospects, none of which had mono.
|Michael St. Croix||0.4|
Over the course of a full season, Strome and Jensen outscore Ritchie by only 4 goals. Given the low rankings, it seems like he's being dinged a bit heavily for his perceived lack of consistency, which was likely a result of long-term mono, much like Couturier. Sallows has a bit of a different take on Ritchie, a much more positive report than Luedeke, Otten or TSR:
...who wouldn’t want a 6-foot-3, 210-pound absolute manchild, that can skate, hit, fight, shoot, pass, score, own the puck down low and along the boards, and simply brings it each and every night?
Ritchie is a guy who can skate well, has an excellent shot and all of the physical tools to be a goal-scoring forward in the NHL. He scored as well as Mark McNeill, expected to go somewhere in the 11-20 range and Ty Rattie, likely a late 1st round selection. NHL teams, and especially the new management team in Edmonton love size and love a guy willing to fight. Ritchie fits the Edmonton forward profile to a T, and if Stu MacGregor believes the mono was a major factor in Ritchie's consistency, Ritchie may find himself in copper and blue on stage in Minnesota to begin the second round..