At 21, the Ducks’ Nick Ritchie is producing in a more prominent role
Nick Ritchie hardly looks the part, but the baby-faced 21-year-old is practically a sage veteran among some young Ducks players.
He has 93 NHL games under his belt, roughly twice the respective numbers for Ondrej Kase and Joseph Cramarossa and 81 games more than Brandon Montour has played. Those teammates are his age or older, which shows the accelerated path of Ritchie this season.
Thrust into a top-six forward role after the suspension of Antoine Vermette, Ritchie has produced on a line with Kase and Ryan Getzlaf. He has assists in three straight games and, having missed only two games this season, is developing into a full-time NHL forward.
“I think I’ve felt like that for a little while,” Ritchie said. “You’re going to have your off games. You’re going to go through a stretch where you don’t play well, but I’m feeling really comfortable and I like it a lot. I think I add a component to this team that helps us, so that always make you feel good.”
Ritchie had nine goals in his first 38 games but dropped off pace, as a lot of young players do in their quest for consistency. But he has built an identity with his 6-foot-2, 232-pound frame, as he is sixth in the NHL with 195 hits.
“I didn’t necessarily have a goal with that, but I just tried to be physical,” Ritchie said. “Just finish your hits and go to the net and be a power forward. That’s all I’ve really done.”
That’s a significant adjustment from Ritchie’s junior hockey days when he was a scorer. But Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle thinks his edge has to be his bread and butter.
“Part of his game has to be his power-forward mentality,” Carlyle said. “That’s being physical. That’s defending his teammates when it’s necessary. That’s going to the dirty areas and playing an NHL-heavy game. He has to understand that’s what’s expected every day, not once a week, not once a month. That’s every day.”
Carlyle and Ritchie agree that it helps to play with Getzlaf, who creates space and draws attention away from his wings. Ritchie knows his time with Getzlaf might be short, just as his ice time increases. He played 18 minutes 34 seconds Sunday, his most since the second game of the season.
Ritchie even has a coveted spot in the Ducks’ locker room, in Teemu Selanne’s former stall, next to Getzlaf and Corey Perry. No one can blame him for soaking it in.
“It’s exciting to be here, and I’m having a lot of fun,” Ritchie said.
Goalie John Gibson did not practice and remains day to day because of a lower-body injury, Carlyle said. Carlyle recognized that the Ducks have one game before their bye week and could use that extended time to get Gibson healthy. … A hearing for Vermette’s appeal of his suspension for abuse of an official was held Thursday but a decision was not announced.
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