A character in the Coen brothers’ classic film FARGO might affectionately refer to Nick Ritchie as a “big fella.”
At 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds, he is exactly that: a man amongst boys in the Ontario Hockey League.
“He’s the prototypical power winger,” said Tony MacDonald, the chief amateur scout for the Canes. “He’s a big, strong guy and a powerful skater.”
Using his already imposing frame, Ritchie, 18, can barrel through defenders. He bulls his way to the dirty areas, sometimes overmatching undersized junior defensemen.
“He’s a tough guy for the defense to handle when he wants to take the puck to the net,” MacDonald said. “He’s a load for a defenseman. He’s at his best when he’s playing a physical game and driving the net.”
|LEFT WING |
|HOMETOWN: ORANGEVILLE, ONTARIO |
|HEIGHT: 6'3" |
|WEIGHT: 226 |
|BIRTHDAY: DEC. 5, 1995 (AGE 18) |
The NHL’s Central Scouting Service’s seventh-ranked North American skater also has plenty of skill – soft hands, a wicked shot and a decent bit of agility, considering his build – to go alongside his size. In 2013-14, Ritchie’s third full season in the OHL, he led the Peterborough Petes in goals (39) and points (74).
The Orangeville, Ontario, native became the third player in Petes franchise history to net five goals in one game during his career-high six-point night on Feb. 7, 2014. He was also the first OHL player to score five times in a game since his brother Brett, picked 44th overall by Dallas in 2011, did so for Niagara in 2012.
“He’s got a good shot,” MacDonald said. “He’s maybe a little inconsistent some nights, and that’s something he’s aware of and knows he has to work on.”
Ritchie also plays with a bit of an edge to his game, as evidenced by his team-high 136 penalty minutes in 2013-14. He draws comparisons to Milan Lucic in that he’s big-bodied and tough to play against.
“He’s that type of player: the big-body type that gets lots of room,” MacDonald said. “He’s a pretty tough, nasty guy to play against, so he gets a little extra room to work with because of that.”
Ritchie continued to thrive in the 2014 OHL playoffs, helping the Petes to erase a 3-0 series deficit against fellow top prospect Sam Bennett and the Kingston Frontenacs. Ritchie scored the game-winning goal in overtime of game seven, though the Petes would be swept by the Oshawa Generals in the next round. Ritchie led his team in goals (5) and points (10) in 11 postseason games.
In addition to having a hockey-playing brother who is currently developing in the Dallas Stars’ system, Ritchie is the son of athletic parents. His father, Paul, logged three seasons of OHL hockey and his mother, Tammy, played volleyball, softball and basketball at Brock University.
Ritchie’s blend of size, skill and power is mighty impressive; though some have concerns with his consistency, his capabilities and potential have him pegged by many as a top-10 pick on June 27 in Philadelphia.