Isaac Ratcliffe’s rookie season in the OHL was of little note. He posted 13 points in a 2015-16 season shortened by a high-ankle sprain. As the year went on he slowly gained in confidence, trusting the abilities that earned him a first-round selection in the OHL Draft, and he carried that into his NHL draft year.
He was given an opportunity to develop his game by former Guelph Storm head coach Bill Stewart. Stewart was impressed with Ratcliffe’s work ethic, especially when compared to what he felt were some underachieving veterans on the team. In response, Ratcliffe was given time on special teams, and gained valuable experience in all situations of the game.
Birthplace: London, Ontario
Position: Left Wing
Ratcliffe is one of the tallest prospects available in the draft at 6’6” and registered the top wingspan at the 2017 NHL Combine, at over 81 inches. He uses that reach to protect the puck well when entering the zone along the boards, shielding off defenders as he moves in on the net.
Adding more speed to what was already regarded as a good first stride gives his rushes another component, making it difficult to prevent him from getting to the front of the net. In fact, he was one of the top performers at the combine in a sprint challenge that involved several changes of direction, finishing ninth in one of the two agility tests.
He doesn’t yet pack a lot of muscle onto his frame, weighing in at just 200 pounds. As he gets bigger and stronger his power-forward game should only improve.
Playing nearly a full season on a rebuilding Guelph team this year, he scored 54 points in 67 games. While that total isn’t as impressive as some of those you’ll see from players projected to go in the first round, it was just one back of the team lead; claimed by 16-year-old defenceman Ryan Merkley.
His 28 goals were also the best mark on a team that was one of just four clubs to miss out on the OHL post-season. Most of those tallies come from right in front of the net, whether by taking advantage of his size to carry it there or using some unexpectedly soft hands to tip in a point shot.
Unlike Michael Rasmussen — another 6’6” forward expected to go in round one — Ratcliffe’s offence wasn’t reliant on the power play. His five-on-five production of 37 points ranks around the same position (51st among OHL forwards) as his total offence (54th). The 21 five-on-five goals he scored were tied for the 19th-best mark in the league.
Future Considerations (May 2017)
A blossoming power forward in the making who has game-breaking ability. His body size alone makes him an impressive prospect but when you couple that with his work ethic and his skillset he is a prospect that has everyone drooling over him; as long as he lives up to his potential and continues to work at improving.
ISS (June 2017)
Lots to like about his game: good size, speed, solid work ethic. Skating has improved slightly, still needs to improve speed. Played on top line, PP and some PK time. Good net-front presence.
Future Considerations: 23
Central Scouting service: 15 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman: 62
Most outlets have Ratcliffe projected to go soon after the midpoint of the first round, though several spots lower than the 215-pound Rasmussen.
There aren’t many prospects in this draft who inspire complete confidence in their ability to become top-end NHLers. When perusing profiles of players who seemingly have a ceiling of a bottom-six forward or bottom-three defenceman, a player with the size and skill, along with rapid development in a sophomore junior campaign, that Ratcliffe possesses should look fairly enticing to amateur scouting staffs across the league.
At the point of the draft where he is slated to be chosen, the choice could be between a player with a more reliable projection of an NHL future (like centre Ryan Poehling or defenceman Callan Foote) and taking more of a risk on a player who could break out and become a key contributor down the road.
It’s hard not to draw parallels with Ratcliffe and Montreal Canadiens prospect Michael McCarron, both for the size and the fact that the Canadiens had the 25th-overall selection in 2013 to take McCarron as well. One of the biggest weaknesses in McCarron’s game is his lack of speed, which threatens to limit his impact at the NHL level. If Ratcliffe could provide what McCarron has to offer while moving up and down the ice more quickly, he could prove to be a great choice for a team drafting outside of the top 10.