Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Ritchie has drawn comparisons to “throwback” power forwards Cam Neely and Wendel Clark. Since being drafted 10th overall by Anaheim in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Ritchie has shown flashes of his early scouting reports, but has yet to live up to his early billing.
In what was labeled as another salary dump, the Coyotes acquired Ritchie from the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with a conditional 2nd round pick in exchange for Ilya Lyubushkin and Ryan Dzingle. In a move that helped clear cap space for the Leafs, the Coyotes surprisingly found themselves rostering another player who needed a change of scenery and an opportunity to find his game.
Playing on a team with virtually zero expectations, Ritchie escaped the pressure cooker in Toronto and was a highly effective power forward on a team that manufactured goals the hard way. It is not inconceivable that Ritchie builds on his 10 goal, 4 assist, 14 point, 24 game stint in the desert.
I do not care who you are or what team you play for, 10 goals in 24 games is a good sample size of what a player is capable of, especially playing on a team pretty void of talent. He also had 74 hits in those 24 games.
Nick Ritchie is entering the final year of his 2-year $5 million contract he signed with Toronto in 2021. Toronto is a team that has so much cap space locked up in it’s top towards that a salary like this was looked at to be a steal (getting a player who could compliment Auston Matthews and score goals). When it did not work out like they had hoped they needed to free space. Cap space is invaluable in Toronto.
Thus Ritchie being moved.
So how does a player drafted in the top 10 have such a fall from grace? How did a team miss so badly on scouting reports?
Ritchie spent 4 seasons in the OHL, playing for the Peterborough Petes. He drew the attention of NHL scouts during the 2013-14 season when he scored 39 goals, 35 assists, and 74 points in 61 games. He looked every bit the part of the throwback power forwards from the 80’s and 90’s.
After four and a half seasons in Anaheim, and never scoring more than 14 goals in a season, Ritchie was sent to Boston where the Bruins hoped to unlock his potential.
The 2020-21 season Ritchie showed flashes of the former OHL star, registering 15 goals and 26 points in 56 games. This was enough to catch the Leafs’ attention and a new contract.
So here we are today. Which Ritchie will we get next season? The player who drew comparisons to Neely and Clark? Or the player who is a big bodied presence, but is nothing more than a 4th line winger, at best?
At 6’3 236 lbs. Ritchie is a monster. To put his size into perspective, former NHL star and power forward Todd Bertuzzi was 6’3 225. If Ritchie can find his scoring touch he could be a wrecking ball in front of the net.
He had 154 hits last season. He is a wrecking ball. At just 26, he could still become that guy.
Let’s hope that Nick Ritchie continues to develop and add to what will be a really tough Coyotes team to play against.