|Calum Ritchie||2023 Draft Eligible|
|Position: C Shoots: R||H/W: 6’2”, 187 lbs|
Winning the second overall pick of the 2021 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection has been a blessing for the Oshawa Generals. A player that was ready to jump into an OHL top six role immediately, Calum Ritchie has excelled as a first line centre now in his second year. Ritchie may not be the high-end point producing player that many scouts expected him to be, but he does all the little things, and he does them very well. At the time of writing this, Ritchie has put up 19 goals and 44 points in 44 games, as he has been able to get back up to being a point per game player. Only over-age forward Ryan Gagnier has put up more points this season for the rebuilding Generals (50). This is an extremely young team, and Ritchie is often forced to play with players younger than himself. He is a leader on this team, serving as an assistant captain, and is certainly a strong candidate to take the captaincy next season. Being able to handle this kind of pressure and be a leader on his team in his draft year is very impressive.
Ritchie is on pace to crush his rookie year point totals, and he has developed into a much more mature, well-rounded player since last season. He is putting his team’s needs first, improving his defensive zone reads and making smarter passing decisions. Ritchie seems to generate a multitude of high-quality scoring chances in every game, whether he is sending a teammate on a breakaway or getting himself into the slot. Everything that Calum Ritchie is good at, he is good at because of his advanced hockey mind, and that is what drives his every move. Another element to his game that is often overlooked, is his size. Ritchie measures up at 6'2” and 187 lbs, which allows him to use his body, with room to fill out even more. If he hits his ceiling, Ritchie projects as a two-way, reliable, top six centre who can often generate high danger chances with his tools around the net.
The concerns revolving around Ritchie this season are with his lack of risk-taking with the puck and explosiveness in his stride. Sometimes he plays too safe and he tries too hard to make the perfect play. He also passes up some golden scoring opportunities by passing off to a teammate when he actually has the better shooting opportunity. There are times when he trusts himself with the puck and makes a flashy move on the opposition, and it would be nice to see this more often. Ritchie is a smart skater, but he lacks that explosiveness and acceleration that allows him to beat opponents on the backcheck/forecheck. He benefits greatly from playing with speedy wingers that can put the puck in the net. If Ritchie plays with wingers that compliment him better in the future, his production has the potential to skyrocket. He is an excellent distributor with a strong hockey mind that allows him to generate chance after chance around the net. Finding goal scorers has been difficult in Oshawa over the last two seasons, but Ritchie has been able to score at an impressive rate given his circumstances. Ritchie possesses one main characteristic that is impossible to teach: advanced hockey IQ. This element alone allows him to be a very realistic projection as a player in the NHL, it just depends whether or not he is able to have the willingness to be creative and increase his production in the offensive zone to take him into that top six role.
Skating is likely one of the weaker elements of Ritchie’s game, but nonetheless there are some positives in his skating habits. He doesn’t have a quick first step, but once he gets moving, he can accelerate at a high rate. Ritchie may not be the most explosive skater either, but he is a smart skater. His skating patterns in all three zones allow him to get into open space often. He calculates his foot movement carefully, and it ensures that he is never overskating the puck. Ritchie is more of an East/West attacker as well, he doesn’t wheel the puck as hard as he can unless he has a clean entry. Attacking laterally allows him to get creative with his entries and his consistent crossovers help him do that. Ritchie has average edge work when transitioning, but again it takes him a bit too long to get up to top speed.
Here is a prime example of Ritchie having enough open ice to get moving and start accelerating, which he does at a high rate using his crossovers. As he approaches the opposing blueline, he crosses over once the opposite way that he is attacking, which catches the defender flat footed and creates a lane for himself.
Here is a clip from the same game of Ritchie making himself a clean breakout outlet. He does this by recognizing that the forecheckers are all drawn to the puck, and slipping through a lane behind them. He is able to do this by keeping his body facing the puck carrier and skating backwards into the open ice. When he receives the puck, he is able to use his edges and quickly turn himself around to head up the ice.
This clip is an example of something that happens too often in Ritchie’s game. He is leading a give and go play with a teammate, and he has an open lane through the defense if he can catch up to that chip to the middle by Carson Rehkopf. His steps aren’t quick enough as the play begins, and Ritchie can’t seem to catch up. If Ritchie is able to explode into the middle, he has a clear lane to the net.
Here is another example of when Ritchie’s lack of a quick stride can hurt his game. He isn’t able to stay with his man on the backcheck, and he is forced to reach into the player’s hands and take a penalty. His positioning and timing is usually efficient, but in some scenarios like this, his feet don’t allow him to get back in time.
Though Ritchie doesn’t have the shot power to be a prolific goal scorer at the NHL level, he can score in a multitude of ways. He is able to use his quick release from just about anywhere in the offensive zone and he has the ability to catch goaltenders off guard. Ritchie seems to always be seeking lanes to the net around traffic, and he seems to find shooting lanes that don’t seem to be there. He tends to use a lot of deceptive moves to open up the short side, which is generally where most of his shots are placed. Ritchie is almost always looking for the perfect shot, and sometimes this causes him to pass up great opportunities.
Here is a clip on the powerplay where Ritchie takes the puck up to the point. No one would really expect him to shoot from there because of his lack of shot power, but he catches the goalie off guard and chooses to shoot through two defenders. Ritchie does a great job at faking a pass to the half wall in this clip as well.
This has to be one of Ritchie’s best goals this season. This goal shows how precisely Ritchie is able to open up shooting lanes and place the puck perfectly using his toe drag release shot. The way he is able to make the defender bite to the middle and open up a lane short side is just an advanced IQ play from him.
This is an odd man opportunity from the Top Prospects game. Ritchie’s head is turned looking to pass from when he hits the blueline until he shoots the puck. He knows that the defender has the lane covered and he will have to shoot this puck, but he keeps his head turned to keep the goalie guessing. The one flaw from this play is that he waits a second too long to shoot, and the goalie recognizes that Ritchie’s only option is to shoot, which is something he struggles with often.
Ritchie has a tool bag of tricks up his sleeve that he doesn’t seem to use enough. His creativity to generate chances in the offensive zone is phenomenal; he just opts to pass off quite often. He needs to trust himself with the puck more, because he can make some highlight reel plays with the puck; this part of his game is often underrated. There isn’t enough to be said about Ritchie’s passing and playmaking ability. He is a very easy centre to play with, his wingers just need to always be ready to get the puck at all times. He rarely loses the puck or makes a poor turnover, he can be trusted to make safe plays.
Here is just an example of what Ritchie can do when he takes risks with the puck. He definitely has the ability to make these highlight reel plays, it’s just a matter of him trusting himself to make those plays.
It was difficult to just pick a couple of passing plays, but this first one is incredible puck placement using the saucer pass. Not only is Ritchie able to send this pass over a defender’s airborne stick, but it lands perfectly flat on the ice for Beckett Sennecke to rip home.
On this play, Ritchie is able to pick off a poor breakout pass and use his hands to cut to the middle of the ice towards the net. At this point, a lot of players would shoot, not Ritchie though. He is able to use his hands in-tight to the net and tap a pass over to Brett Harrison who has a wide-open net.
Ritchie’s advanced hockey IQ is by far the strongest aspect of his game. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and he reads the ice extremely well. Finding passing lanes is never a problem for Ritchie, and he has no issues when passing through traffic. He is a very calculated player, and when he gets the puck, he knows exactly where to go with it. Sometimes he can appear slow or lazy because of how he analyses and scans the ice , but then he ends up in the perfect spot to pick off a pass on the same play. This shows great signs of maturity and patience from him .
This clip begins by Ritchie intelligently drawing the defender up high while he looks as if he is going to pass across the point. The defender bites on this move and this opens up a cross-seam passing option for Ritchie, and he makes no mistake. The amount of patience and calculation Ritchie shows on this play is astounding; this is a high awareness play.
On this play, Ritchie is gliding in on the backcheck, and it looks like he is going to be late to tie up the man in front. Instead, he is able to close the gap on the player right as the puck is being thrown out front. The puck slips by the player and Ritchie is able to pick off the pass. Immediately after, he gets the puck poked away from him, but he is able to redeem himself and knock the puck back to his defense. Both of these actions are high awareness plays from him, picking off a pass out front, and redeeming himself after losing the puck to a second forechecker.
This play begins with a last second read from Ritchie to pick off an attempted clearance and he is able to keep the play alive. He is able to corral the puck with one hand and use his outside edges to swing the puck back the other way. He ducks multiple defenders while patiently walking along the blueline to find a lane into the zone on the opposing wing.
Last season, Ritchie was often taken advantage of physically and he would give up after something didn’t go his way. His last second efforts have been very noticeable this year, and he has been using his body more. I would still like to see him use his body even more, standing at 6’2” and 187 lbs. He could create more space for his teammates and be a better net-front presence if he began to use his body more in those situations. Nonetheless, his work ethic and compete level has been admirable this season, despite many things going wrong for his team.
In this clip, Ritchie is able to use his strong stick and low stance to out muscle the opposition in this net-front puck battle. His teammate swoops in for support and Ritchie is able to take control and exit the puck out of the zone efficiently.
Here is another great strength play by Ritchie to outmuscle the attacker and prevent him from having a wide open net to shoot at. He sees that his man has the opportunity to grab the rebound, and Ritchie stays tight against him and knocks him off balance.
A note on the 20-80 scale used above. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity