When Isaac Ratcliffe was drafted with the 35th pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, many fans saw it as a major reach for Ron Hextall. After starting slow this season with the Guelph Storm of the OHL, Ratcliffe turned it on in the second half and posted a 41 goal season. Ratcliffe possesses a very good shot and excellent hands down low, which is perfect for a hulking 6’5” power forward.
Although he projects to be a physically dominating prototypical power forward, Ratcliffe still has a ways to go before coming into that role. He’s only listed at 205 pounds, so needless to say he needs to bulk up a bit before reaching the NHL. Although as Charlie O’Connor mentioned in The Athletic Philly, “Specifically, Ratcliffe begins to be realizing the extent of the advantage that his frame provides. On rush drills and along the boards, he consistently used his size and reach to make it impossible for checkers to even approach the puck.”
The more Ratcliffe uses his frame to his advantage, the better. One of the more frustrating aspects of bigger players is sometimes they simply don’t use their frame. Ratcliffe has the capability to be a James van Riemsdyk or Wayne Simmonds kind of player with his high end puck skills in front of the net. Which, as a second round pick that was at first seen as a reach, is a very appealing ceiling.
No. 15: Isaac Ratcliffe
Age: 19 (2/15/1999)
Size: 6’5”, 205 (via)
Acquired Via: 2017 NHL Draft — Round 2, Pick 35 (Pick acquired from Arizona in exchange for Picks No. 44, 75, and 108 on June 24, 2017)
2017-18 League/Team/Statistics: Guelph (OHL) - 41 G, 27 A in 67 GP
Ranking in BSH Winter 2018 25 Under 25: 21
In the 2016-17 OHL season, Ratcliffe put together a 54 point season in 67 games with 28 goals and 26 assists. Guelph was the second to worst team in the OHL that season, coming in at just 49 points in 68 games. While those were solid stats, there was cause for concern with the Flyers trading up nine spots for a “project” player. This season however, Ratcliffe was outstanding for a Guelph team that only went 30-29-9. 24 of his 41 goals were at 5-on-5, which was top-20 in the OHL. His 27 assists are somewhat concerning from a creativity level, but considering the goal scoring capabilities, the lack of assists are not all that worrying. He also played in 67 games for the second straight season, maintaining a strong bill of health for the kind of player he is.
He shot just under 15% this season which indicates this wasn’t simply a lucky year for Ratcliffe. In all situations, he posted the ninth best goals per game average among OHL skaters with at least 35 games played. He lead the way among OHL left wingers in shots at 281.
Not only did Ratcliffe impress in the regular season, he scored nine points in six playoff games including five goals. If he’s doing this with a sub-par Guelph team, it will be interesting to see what he can do with a better team.
What also helps Ratcliffe’s case is shown on this chart from Mitch Brown of The Athletic as part of his study on CHL skaters. His metrics are extremely impressive — and although it’s a small sample size — his shots/60 and scoring chances/60 and Corsi Rel are obvious positives. These charts are better used in assessing the play styles of players, and Ratcliffe’s inclination to shoot the puck is a good sign for this kind of team.
Again, small sample size, but there is a whole lot to like here. If Ratcliffe can be a play-driving 30 goal scorer at the NHL level, the Flyers got an absolute steal in the second round. He’ll be playing with Guelph again this season unless he impresses in training camp and preseason enough to earn a roster spot. Assuming he has the same kind of season he had in 2017-18 — and Guelph gets bounced early in the playoffs again — he could see another stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as he did this year. In his two games with Lehigh he picked up his first AHL goal.
There is so much to like in this highlight package. Ratcliffe displays on numerous occasions his great hands, whether it be moving around defenders or deking out the goalie. The goal at the 1:50 mark is a great example of this. Ratcliffe receives the pass in open space and pulls off a quick spin and is able to get enough air on the backhander to put it by the goalie. And as with all great goal scorers, Ratcliffe has a lightning quick release that should translate well to the NHL. It’s nice to see that his quick release and pure goal scoring ability are a big reason for the goals he’s scoring.
Ratcliffe’s top 15 ranking on the 25u25 this year has much to do with his ceiling - if he reaches it. While size isn’t everything (insert joke here), it’s definitely a bonus when the player has the high end skill to compliment it. That seems to be exactly what we’re seeing with Ratcliffe. His size wouldn’t matter if his skating resembled a bow-legged deer, but he’s got the skating and the plus puck skills and shot to make his size all the more of a weapon. If he can turn himself into a Jakub Voracek-type player along the boards — or in the puck possession game altogether — he’s going to be a very fun player to watch.
With the signing of JVR, the Flyers addressed the need for more “pure goal scorers” this season. Despite on the road to possibly losing Simmonds, players like Ratcliffe and Wade Allison appear to be right on the doorstep to jump into that role. This will not only be a big season for Ratcliffe in regards to his development, but in respect to his leadership abilities as well. He’ll be captaining the Guelph Storm this upcoming season after serving as an alternate this year.
Stats courtesy of Mitch Brown, prospect-stats.com, and Elite Prospects
How We Voted For Isaac Ratcliffe
How We Voted At No. 15
|Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Tanner Laczynski||Robert Hagg||Scott Laughton||Tanner Laczynski||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Mikhail Vorobyev||Taylor Leier||Isaac Ratcliffe||Samuel Morin||Felix Sandstrom||Jay O'Brien||Taylor Leier||Isaac Ratcliffe||Felix Sandstrom|
How The Community Voted For Isaac Ratcliffe
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Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2018 Top 25 Under 25: