With the 12th pick in the 2014 SB Nation NHL mock draft, the Arizona Coyotes select: Nick Ritchie, winger from the Peterborough Petes. (You can find all previous and future picks in SB Nation's NHL Mock Draft here.)
When teenagers enter the National Hockey League, a constant fear among talent evaluators is that a player may not grow into his frame and will be too small to play in the league. That is certainly one concern that does not surround Ritchie.
Standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing in at 236 pounds, Ritchie possesses NHL-ready size on draft day and is the clear cut No. 1 power forward prospect in this year's draft.
The 18-year-old scored 39 goals (11 on the power play) and 74 points in 61 OHL games last season, leading all Petes players.
A lot of players over the past few seasons have been compared to Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic on draft day, but Ritchie fits that mold better than the rest. The Orangeville, Ontario native isn't afraid to use his big body to push defenders around and bully his way into scoring position. Ritchie is strong in the corners and uses his physicality in all three zones. He is the prototypical power forward.
Offensively, scouts describe his shot as anywhere from "excellent" to "erratic," but the consensus opinion on Ritchie is that he is a player that makes his teammates better and can drive offensive for his line mates while not always for himself.
The Coyotes could use a player like Ritchie to fill the shoes of Shane Doan as the captain's career wanes. Most of Arizona's top winger prospects are small, speedy forwards like last year's first round pick Max Domi. The Coyotes need some physicality, but today's NHL dictates that skill must accompany that physicality. Ritchie fits that mold.
His 20-year-old brother, Brett, plays a similar game and was ranked by Hockey Prospectus as the No. 2 prospect in Dallas' system before last season.
Could he play in year one? Possibly, although 2015-16 seems like a more reasonable possibility. As a natural left winger who can play on the opposite side, Ritchie's style can fit on any line, and would be an excellent addition to the Coyotes' prospect pool.
Other Scouting Reports
Via NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards:
"He's a big, physical, tough guy. 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."
Via NHL.com mock drafts:
"A 6-2.25, 231-pound power forward capable of winning 1-on-1 battles along the boards. He can fight through checks and is difficult to knock off the puck in stride; 39 goals, 74 points, 136 penalty minutes in 61 games." - Mike Morreale
"Power forward skates well for his size; could develop into anchor of second-line."- Adam Kimelman
"Great size, strength and scoring touch, Ritchie can pretty much do it all." - Steven Hoffner
Via Hockey Prospectus:
"A big power forward, Ritchie has outstanding size and good hands. He enjoys playing in traffic, protecting the puck well and driving well to the net. He plays a physical game, is strong along the boards and can easily separate an opponent from the puck. With his huge frame and muscled body, Ritchie is still working on acceleration issues, however, his acceleration and skating in general are improving. Consistency of effort has to be worked on, but if given players of his level to skate with, this issue may disappear quickly."
Via TSN's Craig Button:
"Nick is a powerful player and when he is skating and driving hard, he is extremely difficult to stop. Very good along the boards and can quickly win a puck battle and create a scoring chance. With his skating and size, he opens up lots of opportunities for his line mates. Players like him are not common."
Via Arctic Ice Hockey:
"To say after being drafted #2 in the 2011 OHL draft that Ritchie came out of nowhere would be incorrect. But the big forward broke out this year with Peterborough after being given an "A." He has improved his numbers every year including in this breakout season. Ritchie is a big power forward that loves to mix it up. Plenty of teams have been reaching for the next Milan Lucic, but unlike those goonsbeing passed off as "power forwards" in the past few years like Michael McCarron, Tom Wilson and Zack Kassian, Ritchie can actually add an element of skill to the package. He is huge and he loves to mix it up in both the corners and in front of the net. He adds plenty of skill to that package as well with some soft hands in tight. He skates well for a kid his size and can make plays on his own. His body is ready for the NHL game already. The question marks with Ritchie is whether or not he is someone that will be able to drive his own offense. He appears to be is more of a complementary type of forward. He will however toughen up a top 6 while adding plenty of goals and grit to the package."
Via Last Word on Sports:
"Nick Ritchie is a power forward prospect who finishes his checks, and plays a very straight line game, taking the puck right to the front of the net and not caring if he has to go through a defenceman to do it. He loves to stand in front of the net and has the quick, soft hands necessary to score on rebounds and deflections. Ritchie might have the best wrist shot in this draft class. It is tremendously powerful, and features a very good release. It can be in the back of the net before the goaltender even knows that he's shot the puck. That wrist shot is already NHL ready. He is powerful in board battles, overpowering defencemen and winning pucks. While plenty of Draft Eligible prospects need to add muscle to their frames before going pro, Ritchie is already built like a truck. On top of that he's still got room to get even bigger and stronger."