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Why An NHL Tryout For Calum Ritchie Makes Sense

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Ritchie Avalanche NhL

Chris MacFarland and the Avalanche held onto Ross Colton this summer, keeping Colorado three-deep down the middle heading into next season. As things currently stand, that’s probably the right move, because beyond those three, there isn’t much in terms of NHL-caliber center depth in the organization.

If the season were to start today, who would be the fourth line center for the Avalanche? Would it be veteran Chris Wagner, who has spent more time in the AHL than the NHL over the last three years? Do the Avalanche try to convert a winger to center during camp? Or is that fourth line center more likely to be plucked off waivers prior to the start of the season?

If these are the options, why not give Calum Ritchie a shot when October rolls around?

On Monday, the organization signed the 19 year old Ritchie to his entry-level contract. It was always going to happen, but with it done, he’s clear to enter training camp with his mind set on one thing – starting his season in the NHL. That work has already begun, with a focus on getting stronger.

“Strength is a big thing,” Ritchie told me at development camp. “Just improve all aspects of my game like my skating and my shot. That’s a big focus so far. I’ve put on some good strength, like 10 pounds of muscle already, so feeling good and just need to continue that.”

Last summer, Ritchie wasn’t able to add that muscle to his body, as he was recovering from shoulder surgery. Earlier this year, he talked to me about just how bad his shoulder got. Once he came back from surgery, he was lights out, helping Oshawa get all the way to the OHL Final.

The Avalanche have every reason to be happy with his development, and this summer is big for the former first round pick.

“With surgery, you miss a whole summer. It’s a lot for a hockey player, especially at that age,” Avalanche Director of Player Development Brian Willsie said last week. “Having the year he had and the long run Oshawa had, playing a lot of minutes in Junior with that body type, you’re losing weight. Now it’s a big summer for him, nutrition wise, off-ice.”

Recognizing how big this summer is, the Avalanche talked to Ritchie about staying an extra week in Denver to, as Ritchie put it, “work on my game and my strength.” Once this week is done, he’ll head back to train for next season. Unfortunately, CHL rules limit where he can play this Fall.

Because Ritchie doesn’t turn 20 until January of 2025, he is not eligible to play in the AHL this coming season. If he had been born a few weeks earlier, things could have been different, but that’s not the case. It’s either the OHL or the NHL for him, with a trip to the World Juniors all but guaranteed in December.

Given his dominant season in the OHL, is there much for him to learn with another full season in Oshawa? I’d argue there isn’t, which is why I propose the following – start Ritchie in the NHL, let him train with some of the best in the world, give him a 9 game (or less) trial, and if he isn’t ready, let him go back to the OHL and don’t burn a year of that contract. Colorado could have the room at the start of the year to at least give it a chance. With no Valeri Nichushkin until November, and Gabriel Landeskog’s return date up in the air, talent will be needed in the lineup. Why not see what Ritchie can do?

If he’s not ready, you can easily send him back. At the very least, it’s a new challenge for him as opposed to another full year in the OHL where we know what he is capable of.

And who knows? Maybe he adjusts quickly and has a Wyatt Johnston-esque rookie season, giving the Avalanche a talented player on an ELC to help with their cap situation. The organization could certainly use Ritchie and/or Nikolai Kovalenko providing great value for cheap if they can get it.

Ritchie got to know his future head coach Jared Bednar a bit more last week, as the bench boss for the Avalanche pulled him aside for a long chat on day two of development camp.

“My development and stuff, what I’m going to be doing this summer,” Ritchie said when I asked what the two were chatting about.

Maybe a taste of NHL hockey is in that development plan this Fall.

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Glendon Gulliver

I agree that Ritchie should start the year with the Avs. If he is healthy, I can see him playing his 9 games and then heading back to Canada. I think a question is which line to you put him on? If Landeskog, Nichushkin, and Lehkonen are all out, the Avs could use Colton as a 2nd line winger and let Ritchie be the 3C with some more offensively talented wingers. Or do you put him on the 4th line, for limited minutes, and work more on his defensive side. I prefer to see him as a 3C, than on… Read more »

Ryan white

We already know nuke is out and landy will start on LTIR. Lekhonen is iffy and might start on IR. If that’s the case they should go like this. I’m hoping they sign lorentz.

Drouin mack moose
Mittelstadt Ritchie colton
Wood foudy LOC
Kiviranta wagner kovalenko
Kelly

If they sign lorentz they could put him as 4th line center and bump wagner or they could pavel there.

But If Lekhonen is healthy then Ritchie just takes foudy spot. Or they could go with
Foudy Mittelstadt colton
Then Ritchie as 3rd line if Lekhonen Is hurt

Brad Jacobs

Give him a legit shot at 4C and allow him to make mistakes and mature. The Avs are so cap limited Bednar has to get over his trust issues and play some younger guys. Last season JLF looked every bit as good as some of the washed up role players JB puts out there just because they have experience. Zero harm in Oct – Dec to give some of these guys some ice time. Upside is so much higher it’s worth the inconsistency it may bring IMO.

Jeremy

Agreed.. especially early in the reg season. Give some of these younger guys a chance to earn a job/role. If they fall on their face he can always go back to the Wagner’s & Kiviranta’s.

E

Don’t hide him on the 4th line let him break in like bedard who cares for ten games

Matt Briggle

I would absolutely give him the start in the NHL, and put him right in the slot that is likely going to be his in a year anyway – 3C. With the issues up front to start the season it would be a good place for him to cut his teeth.

Dru – MacK – Mikko
Colton – Mitts – Foudy
Wood – Ritchie – LOC

Ryan white

This is the best it’s gonna get.

4th line will consist if kovalenko Kelly kiviranta wagner pavel.

I wonder if they would try to put kovalenko at center.

It would be cool if avs signed lorentz. Then be good to go

JEREMY

I’m all for giving him a shot to stick with the club. But it would be pointless to stick him on the 4th line with the Kiviranta’s of the world.

Talent needs to play with talent. Then when you factor in how little Bednar even plays his 4th line. Just wouldn’t make any sense to keep him up & burn the first year of his ELC to play 6 non – consequential mins on what will probably be a pretty makeshift 4th line.

Greg Hadden

What could the Avs package with Nichuskin to send to the Penguins to bring Crosby to Denver while he’s still capable and the Avs window is open? Crosby won’t get a chance to lift the cup again with the Penguins, and Nichuskin could again be a nice piece for a developing team when he gets his issues resolved. Pipe dream, but there is some fundamental ‘makes sense’.

Jeremy

I think there’s plenty of teams (even with his issues) because of the talent level who would be willing to take a flyer on Nuke. But with the AV & term left on his deal. Nobody is touching that right now. Maybe..maybe a team like San Jose, Chicago, etc. A team rebuilding with tons of ancillary cap space. And even then it’d probably be a Ryjo situation in that the Avs would have to package him with assets to get another team to take him on. So to answer your question..there’s no package involving Nuke that the Pens would take… Read more »

Karl Keen

It is going to take a player like him, Malinski and Kovalenko to just make the jump and be better than we can hope. We need younger, cheaper players to step up to win another cup.

Ryan white

Exactly lol at panthers and Dallas.

Johnston and stankoven

Lundell and luosterainen or however you spell his name.

All 4 those players were x factors in playoffs.

Hopefully malinski can make the jump and maybe make girard expandable so we can gain cap space and draft capital.

Ritchie will be top 6 no doubt. I think foudy and kovalenko can be middle six wingers.

Kovalenko will start on 4th line I’m sure so he can get his feet wet and more experience

505Hockey

It isn’t about them “stepping up,” it’s about them being given an opportunity which the Avs are always reluctant to do. Malinski and Kovy have an inside track, both because they’re older but, more specifically: Malinski because he is no longer waiver exempt although they did sign Brannstrom and DeHaan so we’ll see how much playing time he gets; Kovalenko was probably given some promises regarding playing time in order to get him to come over but he is waiver exempt so we’ll have to see how that shakes out. But with Ritchie, he’s a teenager; a very good one… Read more »

505Hockey

Are you suggesting Ritchie play 4C? That would be super wasteful. He needs to play higher in the lineup and be with decent players, not AHL/NHL tweeners. Otherwise, he’ll just end up being written off, like so many other young players for the Avs

505Hockey

I can agree he should get a tryout but the Avs tend not to do that with players that they can only send back to juniors. Maybe they make an exception for him, though.

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