Calum Ritchie’s Dynamite OHL Season Comes To An End

Colorado Hockey Now

For the first time in a very, very long time, the Colorado Avalanche have a late first round pick that they have every reason to be very excited about.

Well, two of them actually. I’m a big Mikhail Gulyayev fan myself, but the focus today is on the 27th pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, Calum Ritchie.

Ritchie’s Oshawa Generals were overwhelmed in the OHL Finals, getting swept by the London Knights in four games, and outside of Game Three, the series wasn’t particularly close. London outscored Oshawa 24-3 in Game One, Two, and Four, and took Three in overtime.

A tough end to the season for Oshawa, but if you’re the Avalanche, there’s a lot to love about what you saw out of Ritchie. After returning from off-season shoulder surgery, he was one of, if not the best player in the OHL. He finished the regular season with 80 points in 50 games, and capped it off with a nice postseason run where he put up 30 points in 21 games.

If you combine his regular season and playoff points-per-game from his draft year, he sat at 1.01. Not bad, especially when you consider he played the whole year with a bum shoulder. This year, he took a big leap, producing 1.54 points-per-game over the course of 71 total games. That’s the type of jump in production any organization would love to see.

Back in January, I spoke to OHL Scout Brock Otten who raved about the improvements Ritchie made in his game. He said the two biggest improvements in his game were his skating and his willingness to get to the tough areas of the ice. Having a new shoulder certainly helped in that regard. You can read what he had to say here.

A month later, Ritchie took some time out of his day to talk to me on the phone about his season and how it had been going. He explained that during his draft year, the shoulder injury was pretty bad.

“I dislocated it like four times throughout the season last year,” he told me.

Ritchie is a solid two-way player who can contribute at both ends of the ice. He explained who he tried to model his game after.

“I really liked Patrice Bergeron growing up,” Ritchie said. “He was just a really good 2-way guy. I think that’s how I’ve always tried to play growing up. Just a good 2-way game and be trusted by my coaches.”

You can read that full interview here.

So, what’s next for Ritchie?

Unfortunately, he could be someone who is hurt by the agreement the CHL has in place with the NHL. He doesn’t turn 20 years old until January of 2025, which means he’s not eligible to play in the AHL next season. That means that the only options for the Avalanche are to put him in the NHL (if they feel he’s ready), or send him back to the OHL. Considering the season he just had in the OHL, you worry that he might stagnate playing in a league that he is already dominating, but they might not have any other choice.

This is why the NHL needs some sort of rule put in place to allow NHL teams one exception where they can place a player in the AHL who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to play there. Consider it the NHL’s version of the Exceptional Status Player. I know why the CHL doesn’t want that, but you run into situations where a young player is simply too good for a league and gets bored. Ritchie doesn’t seem like the type to rest on his laurels, but that’s always a concern.

I’m sure we’ll see Ritchie at development camp for the Avalanche in early July, a camp he wasn’t able to participate in last summer because of the shoulder surgery. In training camp, he’ll look to earn an NHL spot. And if he did pull that off, wouldn’t that be something?

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