Peruse the leading statistics lists for the American Hockey League and you'll see multiple mentions of 20-year-old forward Ty Rattie, whose 29 goals for the Chicago Wolves rank seventh in the league, third among AHL rookies and at the top of Chicago's roster in just his first professional season.
"Ty has always been that special guy that knows how to score goals," said Kevin McDonald, assistant general manager for the St. Louis Blues, the Wolves' NHL affiliate. "It's such a unique skill and he has so much creativity with the puck. There are times when he gets the puck in the offensive zone and it's just like watching magic happen."
Selected by St. Louis at No. 32 in the 2011 NHL Draft, Rattie starred for the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League and was named league playoff MVP in 2013. Advancing to the professional ranks this season, Rattie enters the final weekend of the AHL regular season with 46 points in 70 games for Chicago.
McDonald, who oversees the Blues' AHL prospects, believes Rattie's hot pro start is a sign of his bright future in the NHL.
"[It's] a much higher level of competition and much older players [than in junior]," McDonald said. "To make that jump and continue to be one of the top goal scorers in the American League is special.
"He projects to be a guy who plays on your top two lines and on your power play, and who produces offense. But this year he's also seen a lot of growth in his pro game overall, and he's become a better player away from the puck than he was in October."
Rattie, who hails from Airdrie, Alberta, isn't worried about where he'll eventually stand in the Blues' full-time rotation -- only that he makes it there.
"Once you get to the NHL, if you get told you're a fourth-line guy, you're a fourth-line guy," Rattie said. "You'll take any job they give you."
Just last weekend, the Blues -- at the time without top forwards David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Sobotka and Derek Roy -- came calling with a job for Rattie. He received his first NHL recall on April 11 and made his debut against the Dallas Stars hours later.
"It was a pretty hectic day," Rattie said. "I came to the rink for morning skate with Chicago and they told me they needed me up there, so I got on the plane and got to Dallas about an hour and a half before the game.
"I met all the guys, learned the systems and before I knew it I was out there. It was quick, so there's obviously more excitement and a little bit of nerves, but once I got out there it felt pretty good."
Rattie's proven skillset at the AHL level was a perfect fit for the void left by their key players' absence, according to McDonald.
"The one thing that St. Louis has always tried to do is take the players on merit," McDonald said. "If you outplay your peers, you'll get a chance.
"We had a spell of injuries and we called up the handful of guys that we felt could help us win. If a top-six player goes down, you generally look to the AHL for somebody who can fit the game offensively, blend in and have some chemistry with the skilled players that he's going to play with in the NHL."
The 6-foot Rattie skated in two games with the Blues before being returned to the Wolves, where he looks to build on the knowledge gained during his whirlwind NHL experience.
"It's huge," Rattie said. "Just little things, like video sessions with coaches or being in the meetings in between periods -- I was just trying to soak it all up, learn as best as I can and apply it to my game right away."
Just as he did in juniors, Rattie is eager to take his talents to the postseason as the Wolves make a run in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs starting next week.
"Every player wants to step up their game and be that big player, so I try to do that every playoff run," Rattie said. "I think NHL teams want that in a player. I feel like I know how to win, so I'll bring that little bit of experience that I have and try to help Chicago win as many games as we can."
Rattie is right; the sentiment is echoed all the way up through the Blues' organization.
"It's essential," McDonald said. "This time of year is so important in these players' development -- not only playing in important games, but learning what it takes to win in playoffs, because when they go to the NHL they're going to be asked the same thing.
"It's about being able to have success every time the bar is raised, and certainly in playoffs the bar is raised a lot higher."
Though the expectations may be greater, Rattie believes he and his teammates will produce the best results if they continue the pace they've exhibited all season long.
"We don't want to change a lot," Rattie said. "I think we've been playing really good hockey. We have a lot of confidence in the room and we know we have the right team to do something special, so we just have to keep going with our game."
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