Dallas Stars 2014-15 Player Grades: Brett Ritchie

How would you rate the 2015 rookie Brett Ritchie campaign?

Once again it's that time of year here on Defending Big D where we take a look at each player that suited up for 20 or more games this season (and finished the season with the organization) - and take a look back at their season. What was good about it, what wasn't so good, and the lasting impression they left us as we go into summer.

When most patrons arrived at the American Airlines Center on new Years Eve 2014 they did not know that Brett Ritchie had been recalled from the Texas Stars, much less that he would be playing- And it's fair to say many of them knew nothing of him at all.

Two games later he had burst on to the NHL scene with two goals and an assist with a +4 rating, and it looked like the big winger was going to be every bit as impactful as anyone had dared to hope, finally bringing that wicked wrist shot of his to the big leagues.

Two weeks later he was injured against the Winnipeg Jets and missed nearly a month of the season while the Stars languished at the Central's basement, and with the late start and time on IR Ritchie would manage to put together just 31 games in his rookie season.

Which is not to say that he did not look good in so doing. Small sample size, sure, but of all NHL players that recorded at least 20 games this season Ritchie ranked in the top 30 in Corsi. (behindthenet.ca)

This is what Brett Ritchie can do you for you without even really shooting the puck:

He has size. He uses that size. He's working down low in the hard areas. It puts him in a position to then utilize his skill. The goal would be his on what looked like an intended pass.

An interesting thing about this play? He's out there in a hodge podge of a line, but it includes Jamie Benn and John Klingberg- And behold! They scored.

That's where Ritchie's season is interesting. What kind of minutes did he get? With whom did he play? Go to behindthenet.ca and see- Spoiler alert: The four players he spent the most time with were, in descending order, Shawn Horcoff, Curtis McKenzie, Alex Goligoski, and Jordie Benn.

Among 25 players behindthenet.ca tracked for the Stars this season, only Nemeth, Val Nichushkin, Brendan Ranford and Travis Morin played fewer minutes than did Ritchie.

That paints a clear picture. Mix in 57% offensive zone starts and you have a sheltered rookie playing in the lower half of the lineup against less-than-average competition with limited minutes, and that injury in January.

When you take all of that into consideration his nine points are not all that discouraging. The eye-ball test says he is ready for a bigger bite, and the loss of Erik Cole and general uncertainty around Patrick Eaves and how the top-six is going to round out next season suggests there's a place for him to move up at some point next season, if not immediately.

Indeed Erik Cole at his finest here is what Brett Ritchie's potential suggests. Bullish, with a nice shot and a knack for scoring goals- Which he did in buckets in juniors and the AHL. His ability to do so at this level will depend on usage, which seems poised for enhancement in 2015-2016.

Then he can receive more passes like this one:

With all of that being said now it's your turn to rate Ritchie. How would you rate his 2015 rookie season? Participate in the poll at the end of the post to give him a letter grade of A, B, C, D, or F with A being the highest grade possible.

How would you grade Brett Ritchie's rookie season?