As the second round of the AHL playoffs gets under way tonight, the Stars organization can spend some time focusing on their prospects down in Austin, and how they are developing. While there are plenty of names on the Texas Roster that will likely be playing in Dallas next season, there are a number of others who impressed in the lower leagues, and are just not making their AHL debut. One of those players is Brett Ritchie.
Ritchie was drafted in the 2nd Round (44th overall) by the Stars in 2011, and has been impressing all those who watch him. While his first season (2011-2012) after being drafted was on par with what was expected, he has seemingly found a whole new level of play this year. He went from averaging a point a game to nearly 1.5 in the following season. So what cause this uptick in scoring?
Mark Stepneski has more on Ritchie's development:
Ritchie said the seeds of his successful OHL season were planted last summer, when he spent time training with one of the leaders in high performance conditioning.
"I think it started in the offseason when I started working out with Gary Roberts," Ritchie said. "I felt really good coming into this season and I felt I was due for a big year."
His performance in the first half of the season with Niagara helped him land a spot on Canada's roster for the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Ritchie had 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) and a plus-3 rating in 6 games for Canada, which lost to Russia in the bronze medal game.
"That was a good experience. It was something I really wanted to do, that was a goal of mine at the start of the year," he said. "Obviously we wanted gold and didn't get that, but you still learn a lot and even through losing, you come back stronger and learn from the experience. I took a lot from it."
By now, most Stars fans who are entirely too obsessed with hockey (i.e. many of you reading this blog daily even though it's the offseason) are familiar with Gary Roberts. If you're not, though, here's a basic background on him: He is essentially a strength and conditioning coach, who is at the top of his game. More than that, he is a lifestyle coach for players. He teaches them the importance of the foods they eat, when and how they eat it, when and how to excercise... and his is extremely effective. So much so, that over the last few years he has worked with several different teams and their players. He has a contract with the Stars right now, though I am unsure of whether or not it is exclusive. At any rate, he is extremely effective, and having him working with the prospects in Dallas is a huge boon for the organization. But I digress...
Brett Ritchie has obviously benefited from that training, and continues to improve. During his short time in Austin so far, he has been impressive to watch. He has one of only four Texas Stars players to score a goal in the first round. The other three names we know well -- Kevin Connauton, Alex Chiasson, and Matt Fraser. Not a bad list to be on right now.
While there are plenty of players on the Texas roster who will be playing in Dallas come October, Stars fans should not get their hopes up on Ritchie being on that list just yet. He is just now getting a taste of professional hockey, and needs more time to develop. He is still incredibly young, too. He is 19 as of this writing, though he will turn 20 before next season begins. (OHL players cannot turn pro until they are 20, so his summer birthday works out perfectly.) With as young as he is, there is no need to rush him to Dallas, especially with the amount of wingers the Stars currently have available.
In the meantime, Stars fans should keep an eye on him, as he looks to build off of everything he has learned so far. He is one of the top prospects currently in the Stars system, and further proof that the future is bright indeed for Dallas.
Make sure you read Mark Stepneski's whole story on Ritchie, as there is far more to learn about him if you are unfamiliar with his story and development.
Coming up in today's links: a preview of tonight's matchup down in Austin, World Championship updates, and overtime madness in the NHL.
- Stephen Meserve has your gameday preview for tonight, against the Oklahoma City Barons. It will be interesting to see how high scoring this round is, especially compared to the last series. [Hundred Degree Hockey]
- Are the Dallas Stars considering holding an outdoor game at Cowboys stadium? It shouldn't come as any surprise to those who live in Dallas, with all the events held at Jerry World already, but it is gaining some national attention this summer. That's always good news. [Pro Hockey Talk]
- Mark Stepneski has your World Championship notes, Including the fact that Loui scored in Sweden's win, and now faces team Canada today. [Stars Inside Edge]
- A list of Vezina Finalists. One day, Kari. One day. [Stars Inside Edge]
- The NY Rangers have tied their series 2-2 against the Washington Capitals, which is no small feat. The Capitals have been playing superb hockey in this round, and this may go all the way to a game 7 to be resolved. [Sports Illustrated]
- Marc-Andre Fleury will officially sit out of tonight's game, so I guess I can't pencil in a win for the Islanders anymore. [ESPN]
- The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the verge of elimination after losing last night. They lost both games at home, which means their fans might have to go another year at least before witnessing a playoff win at home. Boston leads 3-1. [Globe And Mail]
- The LA Kings defeated the St. Louis Blues in overtime. It's a bit of a disappointment to me, but not too surprising. Kings now lead the series 3-2. [Puck Daddy]
- The Anaheim Ducks defeated the Red Wings in overtime as well. Leading 3-2, they hope to close out the series on the road. [NHL]
- As an aside, it looks like all three Pacific division teams will advance to the second round. Is anyone sad about leaving that group behind us next year? Not me.
- Here are the three stars from last night's NHL games. Anyone who is not trying to watch all four games each night is missing out on some spectacular hockey, and incredible storylines. Seriously. [Puck Daddy]
- Meanwhile, in the non-playoff world, the Oilers new GM is using Hockey analytics. There are plenty of teams that use them already, but it seems as if they are finally making their way into the mainstream. Now, if we can just rename them to something normal...[Edmonton Jounral]
- Ali Lucia was able to catch up with Antoine Roussel before he left for the World Championship. It's your video of the day, as he talks about the excitement of his first NHL season.