Raiders Ritchie named WHL Rookie Of the Year

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

It was an outstanding rookie campaign for Prince Albert Raiders forward Ryder Ritchie, and the 16-year-old forward will bring home some hardware to show for it.

Ritchie was named the 2022-2023 recipient of the Jim Piggot Memorial Trophy on Tuesday as the WHL’s top rookie. He’s excited to win the award and receive a video message from former Raider rookie of the year winner Dan Hodgson.

“I was extremely honored and very humbled to get that video from Dan Hodgson, (who is) a Prince Albert legend,” Ritchie says. “That was really cool to see it out this morning. I just want to congratulate the other nominees on their great years, too. I was just very honored to win this award.”

Raider head coach Jeff Truitt says he knew Ritchie was a talented hockey player at the start of training camp, but he credits Ritchie’s constant drive to improve throughout the season as a factor to him winning the award.

“There’s no doubt because of his skill and his competitiveness that we knew he was a good player, a special player,” Truitt says. “As the year went on, his game got better and better and his confidence grew, and he had some success with some points and things like that. His responsibilities grew as well. He’s not shy of the spotlight; he wants to be one of the elite players and he certainly showed (that) in his first year.”

During the regular season, Ritchie posted 55 points across 61 games, including 20 goals. He finished third among Raider skaters in points.

Ritchie was effective as a playmaker for Prince Albert registering 35 assists on the season, with 17 of those coming on the power play. He was second amongst Raider skaters in both of those categories trailing only Landon Kosior.

Truitt says Ritchie has developed some mature attributes for a player of his age.

“I think his poise with the puck (improved). It was always good, but it took another step in being a deceptive player, whether he was going to shoot or whether he was going to pass. It was a bit of a guessing game at times because that’s how we kept people off guard and that’s a pretty mature factor for a young player. So, for him to have those kinds of tools in his toolbox just goes to show you were kind of a special player he is.”

Ritchie is the fourth winner of the Jim Piggot Memorial Trophy in Raider franchise history, with the last winner being Chris Phillips during the 1995-1996 season. Other Raider rookie of the year winners include Donevan Hextall in 1990-91 and Dan Hodgson in 1982-83.

Ritchie also took home the Rookie of The Year and second star award at the Raider awards banquet back in March.

Truitt says he was thrilled when he heard the announcement of Ritchie’s award on Tuesday.

“We’re really proud of him. It’s great for the Raider organization to have a quality young man like him and how he’s developed and getting this league recognition is a tremendous honor. We’re all proud of him and we know that his teammates are too.”

Ritchie says he is focusing on improving his game heading into his 17-year-old season in the NHL.

“I’m focused on my speed and getting stronger in the gym. I want to be a much stronger, faster player. And then just developing all the other areas in my game. The shooting and stick handling edge work and just trying to make myself an overall better player here throughout the summer.”

Raiders to pick first and second overall in WHL Prospects Draft

There will be plenty for the Prince Albert Raiders to look forward to on Thursday as they will pick first, second and seventh overall in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft which begins at 10 A.M.

The draft will begin with a 30-minute pre-show that will be livestreamed on WHL Live beginning at 9:30 A.M. Fans can view the livestream for free with the creation of a WHL Live account.

According to a spreadsheet by Alan Caldwell, the Raiders also own selections in the second round (26th overall), third round (48th overall), fourth round (70th overall), fifth round (92nd overall), sixth round (114th, 115th and 124th overall. 115th overall pick was acquired from Brandon in 2021 for Eric Pearce. 124th pick was acquired from Lethbridge in 2021 along with Trevor Thurston in exchange for Tyson Laventure and Ross Stanley), seventh round (136th overall), eighth round (166th overall. Acquired from Regina in 2022 for Logan Linklater), ninth round (178th overall), tenth round (202nd overall), eleventh round (224th overall) and twelfth round (246th overall)