2014 Draft Eligibles: Will Peterborough’s Nick Ritchie be the steal of the draft?

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NHL Central Scouting and ISS Hockey both released their mid-term and January rankings respectively this week. To my surprise, there has been some change at the top of both rankings.

Central Scouting has Kingston Frontenacs center Sam Bennett as the top rated North American skater. In 40 games with the Fronts this year, Bennett has 26 goals, 40 assists for 66 points. Prince Albert Raiders center Leon Draisaitl is second, Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad is third, Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart is fourth, and rounding out the top five is Oshawa Generals C/LW Michael Dal Colle. You can view Central Scouting full rankings by clicking here.

ISS Hockey has Aaron Ekblad has their top draft eligible prospect for the month of January. Reinhart is second, Bennett is third, Dal Colle is fourth, and Sodertalje’s Willie Nylander rounds out the top five. Click here to view their full top 30 rankings.

With all that being said, I’m shocked Peterborough Petes LW Nick Ritchie is not rated higher on ISS’s list. They have the 6’2, 231 pound winger 13th on their list, while Central Scouting has Ritchie ranked seventh among all North American Skaters.

If Ritchie remains in the 11-15 range he will be the steal of the draft no doubt. Mark my words. Ritchie is a prototypical power forward who possesses an impressive blend of speed, skill, size and strength. For a bigger guy, he skates incredibly well and is extremely agile. He’s the complete package and is truly a true power forward prospect.

Think Milan Lucic.

I know that comparison is lofty, but I believe Ritchie could attain that level. He hits, skates, intimidates, fights, drives the net, and is fearless like Lucic. The problem lies in him staying healthy. Ritchie has had concussion issues that past two seasons.In his rookie campaign in 2011-12,  Ritchie had 16 goals and 23 assists for 39 points in 62 games played. Last year, Ritchie played only 41 games and registered 35 points. This season with the Petes Ritchie has 36 points in 36 games played.

Physically, he’s ready for the NHL next season in my opinion. When he’s on his game, he can control every aspect of the game. Watching him in transition he’s incredibly hard to contain given his size, not to mention he has great hands and vision.

The Orangeville, Ontario native has good bloodlines as well. His brother, Brett, is a Dallas Stars second rounder who was a bull to play against in the OHL over his final two seasons with the Niagara IceDogs.

Teams will be afraid to select Ritchie in the top 10 because of his injury concerns so that’s why I see him slipping into that 11-15 range. I don’t think he belongs there given his potential and talent.  He should be top 10 pick in my opinion. He’s one of the few players in this rather mediocre draft class that I would trade up to get.