The 2014 NHL Entry Draft is 23 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 8 today.
The Maple Leafs' Current Situation
The Maple Leafs went heavy on the forwards in 2013 draft; using four of their five selections on young forwards. This may just be necessary though, as the Leafs are heavily loaded with young defensemen. This year won't be any different, at least in the first round. The Maple Leafs have problems with puck possession and the talent outside of James van Reimsdyk, Phil Kessel, and Tyler Bozak, leaves little to be desired.
Sure, Nazem Kadri looks promising with his 50 points scored in 2013-2014, but still has a lot to prove. King Joffrey was poiso....I mean...ahem...Joffrey Lupul isn't more than a 20-25 goal scorer throughout his career and is getting paid $5.25 million. Of the Maple Leafs top-10 points-getters this season, four of them are defensemen. The top six carrying this team or should I say JvR and Kessel are carrying this team.
The prospect pool has been ranked number 20 by Hockey's Future because, "There is a distinct lack of upside in this system, the byproduct of an overly conservative approach at the draft table." They have a lot of prospects, just many of them really aren't ones that are ‘wowing' anyone. Ritchie could be the dramatic change in the prospect pool Leafs' fans have been looking for.
The Maple Leafs picked the tall Ritchie because he is that prototypical power forward that they or any other team is looking for. Listed at 6'2" and 225 pounds, the kid knows how to use his body to his advantage. He has "elite puck protection" as ISS Hockey described Ritchie.
He is an agile and quick, big bodied kid with a good shot as well. In 61games with Petes he scored 39 goals and 35 assists for a total of 74 points for the season. That's 1.088 points per game at the OHL level. Ritchie took Gold medals in both the U18 World Junior Championships and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial racking up a combined total of six points in nine total games.
The kid also has some scrappiness to him. He likes to fight and stand up for his teammates. He totaled 136 minutes of penalty time. Ritchie finished 7th among North American skaters on Central Scouting's final rankings of 2014 draft eligible players.
How He Fits the Wild
The Wild are hoping that Charlie Coyle can be that power forward that they've coveted for years. However, Coyle's biggest knock is knowing when and how to use his big frame and play physical. Ritchie seems to have that part down as he knows how to protect the puck. The kid has really good size that you could see planted in front of the net and wreaking havoc for goalies. The Wild need that type of presence. Ritchie has been projected to go right around pick #7 or #8, but has been seen to fall to around #12 in some mock drafts. If the Wild have targeted him, they may try and trade up from #18 and snipe him off the board.