Raider forward Ritchie named to Canada’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup roster

Herald File Photo. Prince Albert Raiders forward Ryder Ritchie attempts a shot during WHL action against the Winnipeg ICE at the Art Hauser Centre

Daily Herald Staff

Prince Albert Raiders forward Ryder Ritchie will wear the maple leaf for the second time in his young career after being named to Canada’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup roster on Wednesday.

Ritchie said he is excited to represent Canada on the international stage again.

“It’s awesome any time you get the chance to represent your country at such a high tournament, it’s going to be awesome. And I’m super pumped for the challenge and hopefully I’m able to make Canada proud.”

Ritchie represented Canada White last season at the U17 World Hockey Championship in B.C., where he registered four goals in six games. Now, he’ll get a chance on an even bigger stage when Team Canada heads to Europe in late July.

Ritchie said he has never been to either Slovakia or the Czech Republic, but he is looking forward to representing Canada in Europe for the first time.

“(In the) U17, you’re used to it. You’re in Canada, you know how Canada is going to be and going on to international soil, it’s very different. The ice surface, it’s going to be bigger to my understanding. Everything’s different, the food (and) the culture. So, it’s going to be super excited to see how that is.”

Raiders head coach Jeff Truitt said Ritchie had a great season last year and deserved to be selected.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all with his elite skill and passion for the game,” Truitt said in a press release. “His improvements over the season were outstanding. Having the opportunity to coach a U-18 team overseas (2023 IIHF U18 World Championship) and seeing some of the players that were there, he’ll fit right in. He’s a great player.”

Ritchie is the first Raider since Nolan Allan to represent Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. The 2023 tournament runs from July 31 to Aug. 5 in Breclav, Czechia and Trencin, Slovakia.

As a 16-year-old, Ritchie scored 20 goals and added 35 assists in 61 games last season. The Calgary product was also named the WHL’s Rookie of the Year.

“The numbers that he put up were tremendous,” Truitt said. “His confidence grew and grew. At the beginning of the season, everything was new to him. The intensity and consistency that you have to play with night in and night out is not easy as a rookie, but obviously he is an elite 16-year-old. After Christmas he really took off with his point production, and that just goes to show how high his hockey IQ is.”

Canada is slotted into Pool B with Finland, Switzerland, and Slovakia. They open the eight-team tournament on July 31 against Finland in Trencin.

The semi-finals will be held on Friday, Aug. 4, with the Gold and Bronze Medal games scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 5.

Prior to the tournament, Team Canada will face Hungary (July 27) and Czechia (July 29) in pre-tournament exhibition matches.

Ritchie is one of eight WHL players on Team Canada’s roster. The others are Roger McQueen (Brandon), Berkly Catton (Spokane), Jordan Gavin (Tri-City), Ollie Josephson (Red Deer), Carson Wetsch (Calgary), Cayden Lindstrom (Medicine Hat), and Charlie Elick (Brandon).

Canada has won 23 gold medals at the tournament, along with three silver medals and one bronze.