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Nick Ritchie was taken 10th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2014 NHL entry draft. He wasn’t Anaheim’s worst first round draft pick (I’d give that title to Logan McMillan), but he hasn’t come anywhere close to living up to the expectations the organization had for him when he was drafted.
Ritchie was drafted with the assumption that he would fit well into the Ducks style, which - dating back to their 2007 Stanley Cup run - has relied heavily on size, power forwards and a gritty, offensive zone cycling system.
In a sense, he was to be part of the continuance of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
The problem is that Anaheim’s style, as a whole, is far less effective in 2018 than it was in 2007. As the league has gotten faster and less gritty, players like Ritchie have lost a significant amount of value.
My argument, going into the 2018-2019 season is that Ritchie should either be a healthy scratch or be playing in San Diego to start the season.
By all objective measurements, Ritchie has been offensively unremarkable in his first two full seasons with the Ducks. 77 and 76 games have yield 28 and 27 points respectively and a combined 50.59 CF% between the two seasons. While he has proved to be a physical player, and able to use his size, he has taken a lot of penalties landing him second on the team in that category in 2017-2018 and sixth the season before.
While those numbers aren’t terrible, they aren’t what we expected out of Ritchie.
Now going into his fourth year in the league, we’ve gotten a sense that Ritchie is, at his best, a bottom-six forward who takes a lot of penalties and puts up modest point totals. Given the Ducks’ supposed shift to a speed and skill-based playing style, along with the current makeup of Anaheim’s roster, I don’t see a spot for Ritchie on opening night.
Where would Ritchie play?
Back on September 7th, I posted an article that went through how I would structure Anaheim’s lineup, assuming an entirely healthy team.
SC1: Rakell - Getzlaf - Eaves
SC2: Gibbons - Kesler - Perry
SC3: Terry - Henrique - Kase
CHK: Cogliano - Rowney - Silfverberg
Now, I understand that’s my own concoction. So, let’s say we go with a more conventional Ducks lineup:
SC1: Rakell - Getzlaf - Eaves
SHUTDOWN: Cogliano - Kesler - Silfverberg
SC2: Kase - Henrique - Perry
SC3: Gibbons - Rowney - Terry
Do we really need to pay Ritchie more than Rowney or Gibbons to play on the fourth line? Since Ritchie is a left wing, he might
be a better fit than Gibbons on the fourth line next to Rowney. But in New Jersey, Brian Gibbons put in 26 points in only 59 games in 2017-2018. He’s also a lot lighter and faster than Ritchie, putting him more in line with a speed-focused gameplan.
I’m not saying that he’s certainly going to be more productive than Ritchie, but I’d rather have Gibbons in that last left wing spot.
If nothing else, he’d put up similar numbers for a modestly lower salary.
All this to say, I think Ritchie is the odd man out.
We had a good run, Nick, but it’s just not working out. I like you as a friend and we can still hang out, if there’s an injury, and if Bob Murray re-signs you for a reasonable price.