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Calum Ritchie’s Dynamite OHL Season Comes To An End

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Avalanche Ritchie NHL Draft trade

For the first time in a very, very long time, the Colorado Avalanche have a late first round pick that they have every reason to be very excited about.

Well, two of them actually. I’m a big Mikhail Gulyayev fan myself, but the focus today is on the 27th pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, Calum Ritchie.

Ritchie’s Oshawa Generals were overwhelmed in the OHL Finals, getting swept by the London Knights in four games, and outside of Game Three, the series wasn’t particularly close. London outscored Oshawa 24-3 in Game One, Two, and Four, and took Three in overtime.

A tough end to the season for Oshawa, but if you’re the Avalanche, there’s a lot to love about what you saw out of Ritchie. After returning from off-season shoulder surgery, he was one of, if not the best player in the OHL. He finished the regular season with 80 points in 50 games, and capped it off with a nice postseason run where he put up 30 points in 21 games.

If you combine his regular season and playoff points-per-game from his draft year, he sat at 1.01. Not bad, especially when you consider he played the whole year with a bum shoulder. This year, he took a big leap, producing 1.54 points-per-game over the course of 71 total games. That’s the type of jump in production any organization would love to see.

Back in January, I spoke to OHL Scout Brock Otten who raved about the improvements Ritchie made in his game. He said the two biggest improvements in his game were his skating and his willingness to get to the tough areas of the ice. Having a new shoulder certainly helped in that regard. You can read what he had to say here.

A month later, Ritchie took some time out of his day to talk to me on the phone about his season and how it had been going. He explained that during his draft year, the shoulder injury was pretty bad.

“I dislocated it like four times throughout the season last year,” he told me.

Ritchie is a solid two-way player who can contribute at both ends of the ice. He explained who he tried to model his game after.

“I really liked Patrice Bergeron growing up,” Ritchie said. “He was just a really good 2-way guy. I think that’s how I’ve always tried to play growing up. Just a good 2-way game and be trusted by my coaches.”

You can read that full interview here.

So, what’s next for Ritchie?

Unfortunately, he could be someone who is hurt by the agreement the CHL has in place with the NHL. He doesn’t turn 20 years old until January of 2025, which means he’s not eligible to play in the AHL next season. That means that the only options for the Avalanche are to put him in the NHL (if they feel he’s ready), or send him back to the OHL. Considering the season he just had in the OHL, you worry that he might stagnate playing in a league that he is already dominating, but they might not have any other choice.

This is why the NHL needs some sort of rule put in place to allow NHL teams one exception where they can place a player in the AHL who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to play there. Consider it the NHL’s version of the Exceptional Status Player. I know why the CHL doesn’t want that, but you run into situations where a young player is simply too good for a league and gets bored. Ritchie doesn’t seem like the type to rest on his laurels, but that’s always a concern.

I’m sure we’ll see Ritchie at development camp for the Avalanche in early July, a camp he wasn’t able to participate in last summer because of the shoulder surgery. In training camp, he’ll look to earn an NHL spot. And if he did pull that off, wouldn’t that be something?

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Jon

Didn’t realize he was so young when drafted. Neither option is ideal since he has nothing left to prove in the OHL and I don’t think he’d be ready from the jump to be an everyday player with the Avs. The Avs are big on not having a guy be a healthy scratch if they need development. I suppose one alternative would be to lend him to a European professional league, so he plays against men.

hockeyhacker5

Ritchie was the normal draft age. Of the top dozen picks, half were slightly older than him, five were younger, and one was born the same day. Had he been born three weeks sooner, he would have been eligible for the OHL next season. Because of the junior agreement, I don’t believe Europe is an option. Either an under-20 player (based on Jan 1) makes the NHL roster, or they must be returned to their junior team. The reason is to keep the team quality and fan attendance high. Before that agreement (1974?), players couldn’t even be drafted until age… Read more »

Glendon Gulliver

I believe the agreement is only with the NHL, so Ritchie could go to Europe. I do not think the Avs want that.

Larry Macdonald

Call me crazy but what if mittelstadt moved to wing and Ritchie center with Lekhonen on other wing

hockeyhacker5

Not crazy, but it’s much more likely that Ritchie would start on the wing, even if he absolutely tore it up at camp. Even MacKinnon played mostly wing his rookie year. If he plays very well in camp, he might get his handful of NHL games, and then be sent back for a final year in the OHL. Once they are returned to junior, they have to stay.

Mark Messier

So in other words he is the anti-MacKinnon?

He said the two biggest improvements in his game were his skating and his willingness to get to the tough areas of the ice.

Thomas Wilgus

Oh please, give it a rest. Go back to sleep under your bridge.

Joe Cerwinske

Bro, just stop. Everyone hates you, and no one takes you seriously.

Dan G

Don’t feed the troll

Ari Sachter-Smith

If he can make the NHL jump a bottom 6 of wood— Colton- LOC Foudy-Ritchie-Kovalenko and still have a Duhaime or Trenin in the mix depending on how the resting the playoffs & off season shake out.

Sasha landprecht

Everything hinges on landeskog. But next year should be

Drouin mack moose
Mittelstadt Ritchie Lekhonen
Landeskog colton kovalenko
Wood trenin LOC

hockeyhacker5

You’d have to trade Girard or Manson to make that work under the cap, and that’s assuming Drouin takes a big discount to return. Avs can’t pay Landy $7m to play on the third line, and remember that you can’t trade Nichushkin until he returns, at which point he immediately counts over $6m on the cap. Trenin is likely gone, with Foudy or Wagner being a cheaper 4C. If Landeskog can’t return at a top-six level, they are way better off if he stays on LTIR so they can afford multiple other players.

Glendon Gulliver

Technically the above lineup can be done. Knowing that Nichushkin’s cap hit returns, as early as November, it would all depend on what it would take to re-sign Drouin and Trenin and give Mittelstadt a raise. That lineup, with Drouin, Trenin, and Mittelstadt making their current salary, along with Makar, Toews, Manson, Girard, Georgiev, and Annunen, totals $76.9M. After subtracting Nichushkin’s $6.125M, that leaves $4.65M. If you add Malinski at $850K, that leaves $3.825M for another defenseman, Ritchie’s salary, and raises to Drouin, Trenin, and Mittelstadt. Maybe not reasonable, but it is possible. Everything the Avs do next year depends… Read more »

Glendon Gulliver

That is a doable lineup, but I would change it around a bit. I would go:

Drouin-MacKinnon-Rantanen
Colton-Mittelstadt-Lehkonen
Landeskog-Ritchie-O’Connor
Wood-Trenin-Kovalenko

I do not think Ritchie has enough experience to jump into a 2C role. He would be better suited as a 3C and that would allow Colton to go back to the wing. Landeskog has not played for 2 years, so starting out on the 3rd line would limit his minutes and provide a mentoring role for Ritchie.
As the season progresses and Nichushkin returns, then the lines could be shuffled to accommodate Nichushkin and Landeskog.

Joe Cerwinske

I truly believe he can and will make our NHL squad out of camp. Like you said, he’s way too talented to keep down there, and we could certainly use another center!

Ken

I understand not wanting to throw players into the fire too early, but 4th line center, scratch every 5th or 6th game, and no special teams. Control his ice time and take pressure off, learning in the NHL shouldn’t hurt him.

Matt Briggle

I’m wondering if he might be able to make the leap and at least start the season as 3C with say Colton and LOC on his wings to protect him. He wouldn’t have the pressure on him to put up points immediately and could just focus on that 200 foot game. Maybe after trade deadline he drops to 4C for the playoffs.

Mark B

I agree 100% that a 19 yr old should be able to play in AHL. It only hurts the players development.

Dario Ronzone

Go the Matthews route. If he’s not going to make the team out of camp (and I’m sure he’s going to get in plenty of pre-season games), then send him to the SHL for a season to play against some bigger competition. The U20 rule in the AHL is frustrating.

Aaron Grady

Can he play in the ncaa?

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