NickRitchie

Get to know a draft pick — Nick Ritchie

Leading up to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, we’ll be profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Sunday in the first round. Nothing too in-depth. Just enough so you know who they are and what they’re about.

Nick Ritchie

Height: 6’3”  Weight: 236 Shoots: Left

Team: Peterborough Petes (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting Ranking: No. 7 North American skater

What kind of player is he?

In a word, and it’s a word you’ll hear a lot, he’s “heavy.” He’s already a pro-sized power forward. He’s physical, he’s strong, he plays the kind of game that wears out opponents. Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray mentioned Ritchie as being one of those players that could wind up pushing their way up the draft order because of the “heavy” game he plays.

“There are some guys that aren’t being talked about that are potentially part of that [group of high-end talent],” Murray said. “It’s a copycat League, so L.A. wins the Cup again and the terminology that they’re ‘heavy’ and you’ve got guys like [Nick] Ritchie and [Jake] Virtanen that are good players that are ‘heavy’ and teams are looking for ‘heavy.'”

The big question with Ritchie is whether that size meshes with talent to make him a top NHL player. The debate on where to take him in the draft centers around that question. He could go in the Top 10 or he could slip to near 20. After seeing speedy skill players that can play physical have success in the postseason, some teams could get spooked on Ritchie’s size alone.

Quotable:

TSN’s Craig Button is one of the top scouting voices in the business and he said Ritchie’s size is what sets him apart as Michael Traikos of The National Post shared.

“Physically, he’s so far advanced,” Button said. “If you put him in the NHL right now, he’s a big man. But the biggest thing with Nick is developmental. He needs maturing.”

Mark Seidel, the Chief Scout at NACScouting has this to say about Ritchie:

“Nasty streak that scares opponents. He showed an ability to fight very well and is a lefty. Dominant at times, physical specimen, looked disinterested at times, very heavy shot. He goes through guys when he wants to, exceptional for some games and then invisible for others. He has the most upside of ANY forward in the draft. Impossible to move when he went to the front of the net.”

For more 2014 NHL Draft profiles, click here.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.

Video: Mika Zibanejad’s check to Tyler Bozak’s head

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Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).

The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.

You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.

It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.

Update: It didn’t get much better going forward; the Senators beat the Maple Leafs 6-1.