Forward Nicholas Ritchie of the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, No. 7 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, had a night to remember last week at K-Rock Centre in Kingston.
Ritchie tied a franchise record with five goals in a 7-6 shootout loss to the Kingston Frontenacs on Feb. 7. He also added an assist to finish the game with a career-high six points, scoring from every possible angle while exhibiting the power, energy and scoring touch that NHL scouts crave.
The five-goal game tied Bill Gardner (November 1979) and Doug Evans (October 1983) in the franchise record book. Additionally, he's the first to score five goals in an OHL game since his older brother Brett Ritchie, a 2011 Dallas Stars draft pick, scored five playing for the Niagara IceDogs on Nov. 4, 2012.
"When he has those types of nights, to me it's like a man playing with boys because he can be that dominant," Peterborough coach Jody Hull told NHL.com of Nicholas Ritche's big game. "He's done it before. Maybe he hasn't gotten the points, but he's been very dominant, and that's the type of game he's capable of playing."
Hull called Ritchie's effort a top-three performance from him this season. Ritchie, who was named the game's second star, scored three goals in the second period. He was named the OHL player of the week.
"He's trying to be smarter, especially when he doesn't have the puck or when the other team has the puck," Hull said. "Those things you develop over time. It doesn't just happen overnight. I think he's starting to realize the amount of work that you have to put in if you want to play on a consistent basis at the next level."
Ritchie, who is 6 feet 2.25 inches tall, 231 pounds and a left-handed shot, leads Peterborough in goals (29), power-play goals (10) and penalty minutes (110), and is second with 56 points. He scored two power-play goals against Kingston.
Ritchie's linemate Eric Cornel, who is No. 23 on Central Scouting's midterm list, had one goal and four assists in the game.
"Eric's got a renewed confidence; he worked hard in the offseason and got stronger," Hull said. "We know there will be peaks and valleys, but for most part he's been consistent for us from the start of training camp."
Kingston center Samuel Bennett, the No. 1-ranked skater on Central Scouting's list, was named the game's first star after totaling one goal and three assists. Bennett's linemate, No. 43-ranked Spencer Watson, had one goal, two assists and the clinching goal in the shootout.
"He's unique," Hull said of Bennett. "He's not afraid to throw a big hit and control a game. He's had our number this year; he's an exciting guy to watch on the ice because he has an element of skill and speed but also can be physical when it's called for."
NAHL PROSPECTS TOURNAMENT
The seventh North American Hockey League Top Prospects Tournament will feature three players on the radar of college and professional teams heading into the 2014 NHL Draft, which will be held June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The event, which will be held Feb. 17-18 at the Troy Sports Center in the Detroit suburb of Troy, Mich., will feature 100 players from the NAHL spread among six teams playing two games apiece. The tournament will feature teams that represent the four divisions in the NAHL: Central, Midwest, North and South, as well as an under-18 select team of players starring in the league and a High Performance Hockey League team consisting of players from some of the top AAA midget teams (Compuware, Chicago Young Americans, Honeybaked, Little Caesars, Chicago Mission and Team Illinois).
"The approach here is not like an all-star game from the players' perspective," NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld said. "They are all battling to earn NCAA opportunities and get noticed by NHL scouts, so it really takes the competition at the event to the next level."
There are three players from the under-18 select team who made it into NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings: goalie Thomas "Chase" Perry and right wing Parker Tuomie, both of the Wenatchee Wild, and defenceman Kristofers Bindulis of the Soo Eagles.
"I am very excited to play in the game," Tuomie told NHL.com. "I think it's going to be another great experience and another great opportunity to prove yourself in the hockey world. I'm not nervous yet, but I think it will come once we get to Detroit. Right now I'm just very excited that I'm getting a chance to be playing with the best U-18 prospects out of this league."
Perry is No. 4 on Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible North American goalies, Bindulis is No. 208 on the list of North American skaters and Tuomie is on Central Scouting's players-to-watch list.
Perry -- Born in Grand Forks, N.D., the 6-foot-2.5, 189-pound goalie has attracted plenty of attention this season, going 10-9-4 with a 2.33 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and two shutouts in 25 appearances. Compared by some to Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals, Perry has allowed 56 goals on 614 shots.
"He's a pretty good prospect," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He's got good size, great instincts and exceptional butterfly and five-hole coverage. He absorbed high shots like a vacuum when I saw him last weekend. He's also a very strong skater, and his lateral movements are controlled with decent overall quickness."
Bindulis -- The 6-foot-1, 168-pound stay-at-home defenceman also has some offensive upside. A native of Riga, Latvia, Bindulis has a big slap shot from the point and enjoys the physical side of the game. He has seven assists, 41 penalty minutes and 38 shots on goal in 38 games as a rookie with the Eagles.
"I saw [Bindulis] in the fall showcase in Blaine, Minn.," Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen said. "He's tall and skinny, a nice skater in all directions. He's a good first-pass guy and has some bite to his game. I'm looking forward to seeing his progress in the NAHL Showcase."
Tuomie -- Tuomie represented his native Germany at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, an experience he said he never will forget.
"The World Junior tournament was so far the best hockey experience of my life," Tuomie told NHL.com. "It was unbelievable to play against these top-end players and to have the opportunity to be a part of such a great tournament."
The 5-foot-7.75, 175-pound left-handed shot had 26 goals, 72 points and 48 penalty minutes last season in Germany's development league, Deutsche Nachwuchs Liga. He has 16 goals (eight power-play goals, two shorthanded goals), 35 points and 39 penalty minutes in 36 games as a rookie in the NAHL in 2013-14. He ranks first on his team with 145 shots on goal.
Tuomie is a skilled forward who compares his style to Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis. His favorite player is Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.
"He's an excellent skater both with and without the puck and can go side to side with ease," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He has excellent hockey sense and anticipation, but because of his size sort of plays on the perimeter until an opportunity arises to retrieve the puck and create an opportunity."
NAHL Top Prospects schedule
Monday, Feb. 17
North vs. South
Central vs. Midwest
NAHL U-18 Selects vs. HPHL
Tuesday, Feb. 18
Central vs. South
Midwest vs. North
NAHL U-18 Selects vs. USNTDP U-17
DEMKO, SAVAGE HELP EAGLES WIN BEANPOT
Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko and defenceman Scott Savage, freshmen listed on NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings, played key roles in helping the Eagles to a fifth straight Beanpot Tournament title Monday in a 4-1 victory against Northeastern in front of 17,565 at TD Garden in Boston.
Demko, ranked No. 1 on Central Scouting's list of North American goalies, made 29 saves and was named the top goaltender of the tournament. He also won the Eberly Award for highest save percentage in the tournament (.966).
The 6-foot-3.75, 192-pound native of San Diego, Calif., improved to 11-1-2 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in 14 games.
"He's steadily been improving his game as the year progresses," Jensen said of Demko. "I know the quality of goalie he is, and it didn't surprise me at all that he was able to come up with performances like that [in the Beanpot]."
Demko made 16 saves in the first period when Northeastern (16-10-3) had the pedal to the metal in an attempt to grab a big lead. Northeastern outshot Boston College in the first period and had a pair of power plays, but Demko was up to every challenge; among his best saves were a left-pad stop on sophomore Mike Gunn at 3:55 and later he turned away junior Torin Snydeman off a 2-on-1. His play allowed BC to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
"He's got the NHL skills that are required to be an effective No. 1 goalie in the NHL someday," Jensen said of Demko. "He's definitely a top-quality prospect."
With the Eagles holding a 1-0 lead early in the second, Savage, No. 161 on Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, made his presence felt. Northeastern's Mike Szmatula delivered a backhand attempt near the right post with Demko out of position, but Savage got his body in front of the shot before the puck clanged off the post and into Demko at 4:44.
It was one of Savage's 27 blocked shots this season. He's also chipped in with three goals, 13 points and a plus-8 rating in 25 games.
The victory was the 19th Beanpot title for Boston College, eighth under coach Jerry York.
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1. Dominik Masin, Slavia Jr. (CZREP-JR.): The captain for the Czech Under-18 Team is proving to be a mature player and leader for his team. The 6-foot-2, 189-pound defenceman was upgraded to an A player on NHL Central Scouting's February players- to-watch list.
"He sees the ice and reads the game very well. Isn't flashy or a crushing type of defenceman but does finish his checks and always seems to be at the right place on the right time," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He plays a smart game, and is a stylish reliable defenceman who gives a constant effort in every game. He's improved a lot this season."
2. Travis Sanheim, Calgary Hitmen (WHL): The 6-foot-3, 181-pound defenceman, upgraded to a B player on Central Scouting's February players-to-watch list, has four goals, 16 points and a plus-16 rating in 51 games in his first WHL season.
3. Stephen Desrocher, Oshawa Generals (OHL): Recently added as a C-ranked player on Central Scouting's February players-to-watch list, the 6-foot-3.5, 187-pound defenceman has three goals, seven points and a plus-5 rating in 34 games. The Toronto native, chosen in the sixth round (No. 121) by the Generals in the 2012 OHL priority draft, also has two power-play goals.
DRAFT DANDY OF THE WEEK: EDWIN MINNEY
Pennsylvania native Edwin Minney proved why he should be considered one of the top goalies for the 2014 NHL Draft after leading the United States to the U-18 Five Nations Tournament championship last week in Dmitrov, Russia.
Minney, No. 2 on Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American goaltenders for the 2014 draft, went 2-0-0 while allowing five goals on 50 shots for a .900 save percentage in two games. He made 20 saves in a tournament-clinching 3-2 victory against the Czech Republic on Saturday.
It marked the first Five Nations title for the U.S. since 2011 and seventh overall.
"I play a calm, composed game," Minney told NHL.com. "I like to use my size as best as I can. I find that the simpler the better in giving myself the best possible chance to make each save."
At 6-foot-4 and 201 pounds it's no wonder Minney is considered a favorite to be among the first three goalies taken at the 2014 draft, which will be held at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on June 27-28. He is 15-7-1 with a 2.68 goals-against average, .905 save percentage and three shutouts in 28 games with the United States National Team Development Program's under-18 team.
"He's a big goalie who plays big in all situations and is so relaxed, calm and poised out there," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He has excellent body control and balance when moving throughout the crease and making saves and has an excellent butterfly. He's so quick at recovering to get in position for a second shot, and when he does move laterally he doesn't overcommit."
Minney is looking forward to the draft being right in his own state; he grew up in Wind Gap, Pa., about a 90-minute drive north of Philadelphia.
"That's one of the things I'm really looking forward to, just to see how it turns out," Minney said. "It's not necessarily that I'm really worried about it, but if that [getting drafted] were to happen it would be a dream come true."
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer