The latest in a series on some of the top prospects of the Dallas Stars looks at right wing Brett Ritchie, who was slowed by injuries this past season.
After a strong showing in 31 NHL games in 2014-15, Ritchie had a good chance to make the Dallas Stars out of training camp this past season, but he never skated at camp. Ritchie hurt his wrist while training in August and underwent surgery in early September, putting him out of action for three months.
“I never thought of it when I first injured it, and it never got better,” Ritchie said. “It was tough leading up to the surgery knowing the circumstances of the recovery period. I accepted it and tried to make myself better because of it.”
The injury opened the door for Mattias Janmark to make the Dallas roster at forward and it put Ritchie on the shelf until early December, when he began to play for the Texas Stars of the AHL. And he came back strong, notching a hat trick in his third game with Texas and registering 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 35 regular season games in the AHL.
“The wrist was no problem,” Ritchie said. “It was a matter of getting back my timing, the hands, and getting back in game shape. Once that came, I felt pretty good.”
The 22-year-old Ritchie finally did make it back to the NHL in 2015-16, getting the call in early March with Dallas banged up at forward. He had a big impact in his first game, registering eight hits and pummeling New Jersey defenseman Adam Larsson in a fight as the Stars defeated the Devils, 4-2.
Ritchie played eight games with Dallas, picking up one assist. But the injury bug struck again in late March when he went out with a lower-body injury, missing the final seven games of the regular season.
“He’s had some bumps along the way because of injuries,” Dallas Stars assistant GM Les Jackson said. “When he came up he showed signs that he was really close. I think there are still things in his game that a lot of young guys have to learn, and it is the details of the game. Every shift is important, pucks around the boards, small puck plays are important. Those are all things he’ll learn as he gains experience.”
Ritchie headed back to the AHL in mid-April and got into three playoff games with Texas, which was eliminated in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs, and then came back to the NHL, making his Stanley Cup playoff debut in Game 4 of the second-round series against St. Louis.
“That was on the bucket list when I was a little kid,” Ritchie said of playing in the NHL playoffs.
He played in two playoff games with Dallas and recorded no points, ending what was an up and down season due to the injuries, especially the wrist issue that sidelined him a good portion of the season and might have cost him a shot at an NHL roster spot.
“Maybe you could say [the wrist injury] was a little bit of bad timing for me, but everything happens for a reason. I knew if I played well down there I would get my shot up here again. I am still young. It’s not a huge deal,” Ritchie said. “Obviously, I want to be [in the NHL], but there is a lot you can learn down there too. You’ve just got to make the most of whatever situation you are in.”
Moving forward, Ritchie should be in the mix for an NHL roster spot in 2016-17. The second-round pick (44th overall) in 2011 brings size (6-3, 220 pounds), physicality and some offensive punch to the table. The big right-handed winger has tallied 53 goals in 141 AHL games.
“He’s a big man with good puck skills and he has net presence. And he can shoot like a National Leaguer right now,” Jackson said. “He’s on the verge of becoming an everyday NHL player.”
Brett Ritchie 2015-16 Statistics
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.
|Texas Stars ||AHL ||35 ||14 ||14 ||28 ||-2 ||26 |
|Texas Stars ||AHL (Playoffs) ||3 ||1 ||1 ||2 ||-1 ||0 |
|Dallas Stars ||NHL ||8 ||0 ||1 ||1 ||-3 ||7 |
|Dallas Stars ||NHL (Playoffs) ||2 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||-2 ||0 |