Toronto Maple Leafs: Expectations for Nick Ritchie Are Way Too High

Nick Ritchie #21 of the Boston Bruins (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Nick Ritchie #21 of the Boston Bruins (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Nick Ritchie this summer.

While signing Nick Ritchie may yet prove to be a smart move by the Toronto Maple Leafs, expecting him to step into the lineup and play regular top-six minutes all year long may end in disappointment.

If you’re expecting Ritchie to reach the heights of Zach Hyman (who turned himself into a borderline star when he was, at first, seen as nothing but a depth grinder) then forget about it.

It’s not happening. 

Toronto Maple Leafs and Nick Ritchie

The Leafs gave Nick Ritchie a two-year contract with a $2.5 million dollar contract.  Clearly, they see his combination of size and scoring ability as a rarity in the league and were willing to risk the cap hit and term, even though he could easily end up as healthy-scratch/AHL player.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the risk here.   The size and pedigree of the player should make him tradable, and a worst case scenario you’ve got to demote him and eat some cash while burying most of his cap hit in the minors.

I’m not saying I don’t like the player or that they shouldn’t have signed him (it’s a reasonable move with a potentially high payoff).  What I am saying is that expectations are pretty high for a player with no real history of scoring. (All stats from

On the plus side:  Ritchie scored at a 20 goal pace, smashing his career high last year.  It was his first full season on a good  team with good players, and he posted decent advanced stats and scoring.  He did this by setting a career high in shooting percentage at 11% , but it was only slightly higher than normal, and it’s not like he went on a super lucky run.

On the negative side:  His shooting percentage is not that of a player who scores a lot of garbage goals.  The Leafs need a garbage man.  He has no history of offense – outside of last year’s 56 games, he has never been much of a goal scorer at the NHL level.

Additionally, last year’s goal scoring surge did not come with an uptick in assists – his scoring rate was that of a 3rd liner, and he offers no power-play upside.  He is also bad defensively, and his size has never led to an ability to draw penalties.

Overall, the Toronto Maple Leafs are betting that a huge player with some untapped offensive potential could get on the ice with some elite linemates and vastly outperform any potential he’s ever showed.  If the risk wasn’t essentially zero, I’d call this a bad bet.  Factoring in the risk vs reward, it’s a sensible bet, but not one that is likely to come through.

Maybe Ritchie can provide a physical element to a scoring line and score 30 goals.  Most likely, the Leafs would be better off playing a more talented, less physical player in his role.

For perspective, Ritchie’s points/60 minutes of 5v5 ice-time were below Pierre Engvall and above Jimmy Vesey.  It goes without saying that Engvall is better defensively, so you can start to get an idea of a) how much even the Leafs value huge physicals players and b) how the bet here is basically a hope and a prayer situation.

As for his physicality, Ritchie 8.7 hits per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice-time would lead all Leafs from last year, save for Wayne Simmonds.  This sounds good, until you do the math and realize that Nick Ritchie will throw only one more body check than Pierre Engvall will every game.

Next. 5 Best Case Scenarios for the Leafs This Year. dark

Overall, you can see why the Toronto Maple Leafs made this bet (there is virtually no risk) but it’s hard to see it working out. If you’re assuming Ritchie will earn one of the available top six left-wing spots, I wouldn’t count on it.