No. 20: Isaac Ratcliffe
2020-21 League/Team(s): Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL
2020-21 Statistics: 2 G, 6 A, 8 P in 22 G
Acquired In: 2017 NHL Entry Draft, 35th overall
Ranking in Spring 2020 25 Under 25: 15
How did Ratcliffe ’s 2020-21 hockey season go? Is his stock trending up or down from where it was entering the year?
The 6-foot-6 forward did see an uptick in terms of point production (from .28 PPG in 2019-20 to .36 in 2020-21), so it’s hard to really say his stock went down more as the Flyers added some high-end prospects since the last run of rankings.
Ratcliffe always fit the bill of a project power forward from when he was made the 35th overall selection in the 2017 draft, and his development path has kind of held true to that. While not having issues by using his size to terrorize opponents in the Ontario Hockey League, Ratcliffe hasn’t had immediate success against bigger and stronger competition — and the results have backed that up.
Despite rather pedestrian scoring totals since making his professional debut in 2019-20, the uptick in scoring this past season in a 22-game sample size is encouraging for sure.
What are we expecting from Ratcliffe this season? What should we be looking for from him?
The rise in production last year is something to build on for the player, and reporting to camp 100% healthy is huge after he battled injury last year. Ratcliffe also made it a point to re-focus on being an impact on the offensive end and return to the roots of what found him success in juniors like getting to the net and leveraging a heavy shot.
Ratcliffe has a big body and decent hands to boot, but he needs to live in the high-danger areas to take advantage of his size and reach — and be hard on the puck in battles. The use of that large frame, long strides, and finishing ability on display right below.
Isaac Ratcliffe! Blocks a shot and races down the ice to give LV the early lead! pic.twitter.com/bFTNMDYuEi— Brad Keffer (@brad_keffer) April 24, 2021
If Ratcliffe can add some snarl to his game and really commit to winning puck battles and using his body to his advantage, he could very well turn a corner this season with the Phantoms and set himself up well to give the Flyers’ brass some tough decisions to think about later in the season.
Though last season was a small sample size, there was growth in his game and more progression would be welcomed for a player with an expected development curve like Ratcliffe’s — that’s what we’re looking for this year.
How does Ratcliffe fit into the Flyers’ long-term plans? Where does he stand in the Flyers’ organizational depth?
The Flyers know that the 22-year-old is a project, and are comfortable with that in terms of waiting and providing the support to see just what kind of player he can be for the organization. When Maddie caught up with Mike O’Connell, Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Player Development, he mentioned that what the Flyers really want to do with a player like Ratcliffe — who had tons of junior success — is to identify what part of his game will best transition to the NHL.
Identifying what Ratcliffe does best is still ongoing, and the Flyers certainly love his size and compete level — both singled out by O’Connell. But in order to get to what the player does best the organization still needs more samplings of his game, and an injury slowed him down last year with the Phantoms.
Where he does stand is being a unique physical specimen that the Flyers don’t have a ton of in the organization at the moment. While he needs time to develop, both the player and the Flyers have time to figure out just what they have and how effective he can be.
What do we think Ratcliffe’s ultimate NHL upside is, and how likely is it that he gets to something approaching that?
Given his frame, Ratcliffe is a very unique and intriguing projection because there just aren’t a ton of guys that tall who combined the skill and skating ability to be impact regulars at the NHL level. Guys who have the size like Ratcliffe also tend to bring along a more sizeable amount of beef than him, and play more of a true power game. Ratcliffe isn’t a bruiser, and has a ton of skill, so he’s certainly a type that a lot of organizations don’t have and remains hard to project.
Ratcliffe has the skill and size, and if he’s able to tap into a part of his game where he’s tenacious on the puck and fills out his frame there’s a good chance he can break into the NHL lineup as a bottom-six forward with upside.
Given his stated level of confidence and return to health headed into the 2021-22 season, there’s no time like the present for the former Guelph Storm star to put it together — at least at the AHL level — and turn a bit of a corner development-wise. It’s not a make-or-break year for him, but a nice stride should be coming here for the former second-round pick, or else the Flyers will be faced with another batch of prospects leapfrogging him on the organization depth chart.
How We Voted: Isaac Ratcliffe
How We Voted: No. 20
|David Kase||Jay O'Brien||Mason Millman||Jay O'Brien||Ronnie Attard||Ronnie Attard||Bobby Brink||Wyatte Wylie||Linus Hogberg||Ronnie Attard|