Happy NHL Draft Day. Below is a quick interview between Alec Brownscombe and Peterborough Petes’ head coach Jody Hull about projected top 10 pick, Nick Ritchie.
MLHS: Size can be a bit of a double edged sword when it comes to evaluating hockey prospects. Nice to have — and much preferred, skill sets being equal — but can sometimes allow a player to dominate a junior league in a way he won’t be able to in the pros. How much stock should we put in physical maturity when talking about 18 year old kids in general and Nick Ritchie specifically?
Jody Hull: I think it goes hand in hand with making your jump to the next level. I think Nick Ritchie is a pretty smart, intelligent hockey player with pretty good offensive instincts. I think, in the physical element in the game, he has the ability to separate guys from the puck and be very effective with it. I think he takes advantage of that really well at our level and even sometimes at the international level, as he has when he’s played in different tournaments for Canada.
MLHS: How do you evaluate Nick Ritchie’s skill set apart from his size? Is it fair to break his game down in such a way, or is it too interlaced?
Hull: It’s too interlaced. Because of his size, he gets lots of space at our level, but he’s got great hands — Ritchie was a lacrosse player when he was younger, so he’s got some pretty good hands — good vision on the ice, and I think they just go hand in hand with your typical power forward.
MLHS: How far away do you think Nick Ritchie is from playing in the NHL? He certainly has the size to jump right into the NHL (if, say, the Leafs picked him, he’d be their biggest player, instantly), and he’s skating looks to be up to par. How would you rate him in terms of his closeness to NHL readiness? Is his skating NHL-quick yet?
Hull: I think Ritchie’s totally ready from a physical standpoint, size wise and how he plays the game. I think there would be no problem that way. But, again, it’s tough to say because every team is different and sees things a little bit differently than we do. WIth that being said, I think one more year of junior hockey would be huge for him just in his overall development as a total player and package, so when he does take the step to the NHL he’s ready in every aspect.
MLHS: What skills of Ritchies are at an NHL level already and what needs a little more development time?
Hull: For me, Nick’s shot is by far NHL ready. His passing and all that, his instincts that way, are all NHL ready. I think the biggest thing for him is developing his overall game both ways. That’s a process a lot of guys have to get through in junior to become pro players, but with the defensive part of the game, his awareness will need to get better and he’ll be fine.
MLHS: How much of a factor was Hunter Garlent’s trade in January from Guelph to Peterborough in his later-season success? Ritchies seemed to really step it up after he arrived (20pts in 11games) in January. Why did they work so well together?
Hull: Well, I think they knew each other as friends, they had played together in different competitions as far as under 17s and under 18 championships. Their games suit each other; Hunter is a smaller guy but competes hard, he’s not afraid to go into corners and get pucks. I think their offensive instincts set off each other and they were able to dominate offensively. When you have the size of a guy like Nick Ritchie, it sets a little bit of fear in the opponent. I think that’s what happened when the two of them played together.
MLHS: A few scouting services have mentioned question marks about Nick’s ability to play a consistent game.
Hull: I think that [assessment] is fair for me. That’s how I see it with him. I think that’s why that one more year would be effective for him to develop those skills that are going to be needed to play at the NHL level.
MLHS: What do you make of the conditioning concerns talked about in some of the scouting reports? Is Nick at his ideal playing weight already, above it or has some room to add more bulk?
Hull: He’s probably got a little bit of room to improve, just like how any kid has room to improve. I think, with Nick, his weight is at 225 right now, or in that area, but at the end of the day he’s probably going to play right around that at the NHL level. It’s just a matter of filling out a little more, physically-muscle wise. Weight will fluctuate a little bit, but I don’t see [conditioning] being a big issue.