Ryder Ritchie is forging the comeback trail.
The 17-year-old Raider forward has been out with a lower body injury that he suffered on Dec. 15 against the Kelowna Rockets, the final game prior to the Christmas break.
Ever since, Ritchie has been at home with family while he has been rehabbing his injury. He was back in Prince Albert on Wednesday and practiced with the team in a non-contact jersey.
“It’s awesome to be back.” Ritchie says. “It’s a lot of fun seeing all the boys and getting to be around them. I’m happy I’m back.”
While he was away from the team, Ritchie says he was putting in many hours into getting back into the Raider lineup.
“There was a lot of rehab. My injury was priority number one as I was gone. I started my rehab there and I wanted to continue it. I knew it was happening and I knew what was going on. I just did a lot of rehab, workouts and skated.”
It’s an important year individually for Ritchie as the 17-year-old is eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft and is ranked 16th amongst North American skaters according to NHL Central Scouting. Ritchie is the reigning WHL Rookie of the Year after he posted 55 points in 61 games a year ago.
Although the draft is a factor, Ritchie says he is focused on returning to the lineup and making an impact for a Raider team fighting to make the playoffs.
“I don’t think it would have changed if it was my draft year or not. I want to be back in the lineup and play as many games as I can to help the team win and make the playoffs. I’m just super motivated and hungry and eager to get back in the lineup and heal up as fast as I can.”
A return date for Ritchie to the Raider lineup has not been set at the time of publication. Ritchie says he is chomping at the bit at returning to action, but does not want to return too soon.
“We don’t have a timeline right now. I don’t know when I’m going to be back, but hopefully sooner than later. I just got to get healthy and make sure my leg’s feeling fine.”
Raiders to travel to Moose Jaw, host Tigers this weekend
With 20 games remaining in the regular season, the race for the playoffs is in full swing for the Raiders.
Prince Albert travels to Moose Jaw on Friday night and will return home Saturday to welcome the Medicine Hat Tigers to the Art Hauser Centre for the first time this season.
Both the Tigers and Warriors sit in the top four of the WHL’s Eastern Conference standings. The Raiders have played three consecutive games against teams near the top of the standings in the conference against Saskatoon and Red Deer, going 2-1 in that span.
Raider centreman Aiden Oiring says Prince Albert says they can compete with anyone in the league on any given night.
“I just think we’ve got to play the top of our game. (When) we’re playing our best, I think we can compete with anyone, as we see Red Deer last night and we beat Saskatoon last weekend. So I think when we’re playing our best, we can really compete with any team in our league.”
Prince Albert currently sits one point up on the Calgary Hitmen for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hitmen currently have four games in hand on Prince Albert.
Oiring says the Raiders aren’t scoreboard watching and are focusing of taking care of their own business every night.
“We go game by game, each game two points (is) on the line so as long as we get one or two points each game I think we’ll be fine.”