With his imposing stature on the ice, it's easy to forget Nick Ritchie is still only 20 years of age. He uses all of his 6-foot-2, 232-pound frame to deliver crushing hits with regularity, and this season he's getting an opportunity to skate on the top line with center Ryan Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry.
Ritchie's brief NHL career has had its ups and downs like any young professional hockey player, but this offseason the Orangeville, Ontario native made a commitment to putting in the work off the ice. A rigorous conditioning program got Ritchie lean, though he still has a baby face behind a sprinkling of facial hair.
Ritchie recently sat down to answer questions, some of which submitted by fans on Twitter.
Since you've been a Duck, what's been your favorite fan experience or fan interaction?
Probably going back to our home opener, being able to walk the white carpet was a pretty cool experience. It was something I've never done. It was nice to have that fan interaction. It was fun signing things and making fans happy.
What do you enjoy most about playing and living in Orange County?
It's so nice here. It's a lot different than where I'm from. The weather is always great and there's stuff to do. The beach is close. When you leave the rink you kinda forget about hockey for a bit. You get to relax. It's not like being in some Canadian cities where it's hockey, hockey, hockey. Here, you can get away from it, and it helps.
What's been the most challenging aspect of playing in the NHL?
The most challenging aspect is the everyday grind. There are no days off in the NHL. I'm still young and have a lot to learn, but I've learned a lot in my short time here. You have to be ready to go every day for practices and games.
You've said you put a lot of work into your offseason conditioning, and it's apparent. How much of it was pure conditioning and how much did altering your diet play a factor?
It was a combination of both. I watched what I ate. Not that I was terrible before, but I really focused on it and wanted to make sure I wasn't doing anything that was going to hurt me for the season. When you combine the training with eating properly, you get results. It's something I focused on.
What does a guy like yourself do in your down time?
There's a lot to do here. We have a busy schedule and there isn't much time off, but it's nice to go hang out at the beach. You can get out and just go for dinner.
Are you ever recognized when you're away from the rink?
Not really. That's a good thing. It's different than in other hockey cities. I'm sure there are some guys that get recognized, but I'm not one of them.
Favorite childhood movie?
I used to watch all the Rocky movies. I like Slap Shot. Any of those classic movies.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Orange County?
There are some nice ones at the Orange Circle. Nothing specific.
Favorite pizza topping?
I like pizza, but I haven't eaten in a while. I'm staying away from that stuff. But if I had to pick one, I'd go with pepperoni.
Are you a coffee guy?
Yup, I'm a coffee guy. I'll usually have one in the morning and one before a game. I'm not crazy about it though.
Let's talk music. What's your favorite genre?
I'm not a huge music guy, but if I had to pick a genre it'd be country.
Who's the funniest guy in the locker room?
There are a lot of funny guys, but it depends on the day. Stoney [Clayton Stoner] is a pretty funny guy. Juice [Kevin Bieksa] is a funny dude. I don't want to list too many. Getzy can be funny at times. He has some good lines. Cogs [Andrew Cogliano] is actually funny, too.
Was there anyone in particular that made you feel welcomed here with the Ducks?
Some of the older guys like Getzy and Perry are really good with that stuff. Stoner was another guy - a veteran guy - who made me feel comfortable.