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Five-Goal Game Served as Showcase of Ritchie's Skill, Strength

Friday, 06.27.2014 / 5:23 PM PT / News
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Five-Goal Game Served as Showcase of Ritchie\'s Skill, Strength
Peterborough Petes coach Jody Hull is accustomed to seeing forward Nicholas Ritchie take over games as he did two months ago against the Kingston Frontenacs.

The only difference being Hull never witnessed a five-goal outburst from his 6-foot-2.25, 231-pound power forward.

Ritchie finished that Feb. 7 game with a career-high six points in a 7-6 shootout loss to Kingston. It was a remarkable display of skating, shooting and toughness from the No. 7 player on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top North American skaters for the 2014 NHL Draft.

It marked the first five-goal game for an Ontario Hockey League player since Ritchie's brother, Dallas Stars prospect Brett Ritchie, scored five times for the Niagara IceDogs against the Petes on Nov. 4, 2012.

Nicholas Ritchie's five-goal game also matched a Peterborough mark accomplished two other times, by Bill Gardner (November 1979) and Doug Evans (October 1983).

"When [Ritchie] has those types of nights, to me it's like a man playing with boys because he can be that dominant," Hull said. "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."

Having the opportunity to share a record with his brother is something Nicholas Ritchie doesn't take for granted.

"Just because of how great he's been with me," Ritchie said. "He's two years older than me and I've followed him all the way up and everything he's done. I've tried to do the things he has done and I'm hoping to be playing pro hockey like he is one day."

NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said Ritchie compares at this point to a former member of the Dallas Stars, forward James Neal.

Ritchie has been trending upward on most draft boards over the past few months. Now in his third season with the Petes, Ritchie set career highs in goals (39), assists (35), points (74) and penalty minutes (136) in 61 regular-season games. He also had a positive plus/minus number (plus-4) for the first time.

He scored the game-winning goal 12:17 into overtime April 1 to eliminate the favored Frontenacs and top prospect Samuel Bennett in Game 7 of the opening round of the OHL Eastern Conference playoffs.

Ritchie, who had a goal and an assist in the tournament clincher, has five goals, eight points and 14 penalty minutes in seven playoff games. The Petes, who were making their first playoff appearance in four seasons, became the fourth team in OHL history to rally from a 3-0 series deficit. Ritchie was the catalyst, contributing four goals and seven points in the final four games.

Ritchie was chosen by the Petes with the second pick of the 2011 OHL draft. He was one of the youngest players in the league in 2011-12, but had 16 goals, 23 assists and 60 penalty minutes in 63 games. He was asked if he was at all intimidated in his inaugural season in Peterborough.

"Maybe a little bit when you first break into the league; it's always tough for a young guy," he said. "I was a big kid who could deal with that physical play. It was just more of a mental thing and I think I got through it pretty well."

Despite sustaining a shoulder injury that sidelined him the first two months of 2012-13, Ritchie had 18 goals, 17 assists and 50 penalty minutes in 41 games in his second season. He also won gold medals with Canada at the 2012 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament and at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

"He's a smarter player this year [than 2012-13]," Hull said. "He's more aware, especially when he doesn't have the puck or when the other team has the puck. Those are 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 predominantly has been playing left wing alongside center Hunter Garlent and right wing Eric Cornel, No. 23 on Central Scouting's midterm list. Garlent, a first-round OHL draft pick in 2011, was acquired from the Guelph Storm in January and immediately was inserted on the top line between Ritchie and Cornel.

"When we picked up Hunter at the trade deadline it was a no-brainer for me to put them together. They've been very good as a line ever since," Hull said.

Ritchie's strong play earned him a spot on Team Cherry at the 2014 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January.

"He's a big, physical, tough guy," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "When he's playing and using his size and strength he's tough to knock off the puck. He goes to the net hard and has that power-forward mentality that's tough for people to handle. He protects the puck and has an excellent shot off the rush."

Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 228 221 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 239 197 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 226 202 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 220 186 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 236 220 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 227 198 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 223 204 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 237 213 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 218 197 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 257 257 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 209 223 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 224 226 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 193 276 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 165 267 56

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 77 25 45 15 70
C. Perry 67 33 22 13 55
R. Kesler 81 20 27 -5 47
J. Silfverberg 81 13 26 15 39
S. Vatanen 67 12 25 5 37
P. Maroon 71 9 25 -5 34
C. Fowler 80 7 27 4 34
H. Lindholm 78 7 27 25 34
M. Beleskey 65 22 10 13 32
R. Rakell 71 9 22 6 31
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
F. Andersen 35 12 5 .914 2.38
J. Gibson 13 8 0 .914 2.60

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