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Why The Avalanche Should Be Ecstatic With The Development Of Calum Ritchie



Avalanche Ritchie NHL Draft trade

It’s been a few years since the Colorado Avalanche had a top prospect from the CHL in their system, but if the last few months are any indication, they may have found a good one in Calum Ritchie.

The 18 year old center, who the Avalanche selected 27th overall in the 2023 NHL Draft, is off to a torrid start with the Oshawa Generals. Since returning from off-season shoulder surgery, he’s picked up 35 points in 22 games, and looks like a significantly improved player. The team is also benefiting from his return, as they’ve gone 12-6-4 since he re-entered the lineup. Prior to that, they had an 8-9 record.

Ritchie was actually the first draft prospect I profiled leading into the summer, and I wasn’t blown away by his game. However, the difficult part of scouting him was that everyone knew he played the season with a bad shoulder. How do you account for that? How much does that impact a young, developing player?

Well, if his start to this season is any indication, it might have impacted him a lot last season. The Avalanche have to be very happy with how things have gone so far in Oshawa.

With the NHL season going on, it’s tough for me to catch games in the Ontario Hockey League, so I haven’t been able to watch a ton of Ritchie this season. I see the numbers, but I wanted to know what’s different about his game this year. For that, I turned to someone I really trust when it comes to the OHL.

Brock Otten has been covering the Ontario Hockey League for over a decade, and is currently the Director of Scouting for McKeens Hockey. He was nice enough to give me a complete rundown of what he’s seen from Ritchie this season, and why Avalanche fans should be really excited about him as a prospect.

“Ritchie has been incredibly impressive in his return to action following the rehab of his shoulder injury,” Otten said. “Now red hot, it’s clear he’s becoming more confident and comfortable by the week.”

Otten went into more detail on what he’s seen from the young player.

“I’m seeing two very clear improvements in Ritchie’s game of late that are driving his strong performance,” he said. “One, he’s been way more inner-ice focused. I think that was a criticism last year, that he wasn’t using his size/skill to dominate between the hash marks. This year, we’re seeing him do that way more consistently. Driving the net, with and without the puck. Playing net front. Way more physically engaged. I suppose a new shoulder will do that for you.”

In my viewings, I certainly noticed Ritchie not using his size to his advantage. He’s not a huge guy, but he is still big enough to where he can use it to his advantage. Again, another part of his game where you just don’t know how much the shoulder injury impacted him.

“Secondly, he looks stronger and quicker,” Otten said. “He’s bullying opponents in loose puck battles. He’s been more consistently earning touches through competing harder than others on the ice. Skating has always been a strength for Ritchie when combined with his size/skill, but he looks a touch more explosive this year. I think it’s clear that he’s been working on that while rehabbing his shoulder.”

The Avalanche are obviously a team that is contending for a Stanley Cup right now, but they do need young players that will be ready to chip in on entry-level contracts over the next few years with some of the big deals they’ve handed out to their stars. Other NHL teams will no doubt ask for Ritchie in a trade, but he may be someone the Avalanche want to hold on to.

“Having long been a fan of Ritchie and his upside, I think Colorado fans should be ecstatic with his development so far this year. Since his return from injury, he’s been one of the best players in the OHL.”

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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