Rookies look to impress at Raider training camp

Defenseman Justice Christensen advances the puck during a scrimmage at Prince Albert Raiders training camp at the Art Hauser Centre on September 2, 2022. -- Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald

There is plenty of healthy competition for roster spots at training camp for the Prince Albert Raiders with several rookies looking to make an impression.

Ryder Ritchie is one such player looking to make his way on the roster. Ritchie was selected by Prince Albert with the 14th overall selection in the 2021 WHL Prospects draft. The 16-year-old says he has enjoyed his experience at training camp thus far.

“It’s been good. A lot of good players. It’s been a really good learning experience seeing the older players and see what they do and try to implement that into my game.”

Ritchie enjoyed success in B.C. U18 hockey last season, putting up 31 points in 23 games with Kelowna Rink Hockey Acedemy. However, Calgary product says training camp with the Raiders has been on another level.

“I think I need to play with more speed because the game’s quicker out here,” he said. “I’ve just got to play with more speed and make quicker decisions and it will be good.”

Having a few veterans around to help out doesn’t hurt either. Ritchie said the returning players have played a big role in helping the rookies get settled, and that’s showing dividends on the ice.

“They’re all great guys and they’ve really brought me in under their wing,” he said. “They’ve helped me out throughout camp, so it’s been good.”

There are many different paths players have taken to get to training camp. Defenceman Justice Christensen went undrafted in the WHL prospects draft but was listed by the Raiders. The product of Red Deer, Alta. says he has been getting a lot of advice from the veterans.

“Lots of older guys have been talking to me and really helping me out. They’ve been telling me a lot of what they do day-to-day and how they prepare and what they do on a day-to-day basis in the WHL.”

Like Ritchie, Christensen said Raider camp has been a step up from regular competition, but he’s embraced the challenge.

“There’s lots of good players here and the competition has been great. It’s just exciting to get started.”

The Raiders training camp concludes on Sunday with the Green vs White game at 12 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre. Admission is free, but fans are encouraged to leave a non-perishable food donation at the door.

News and notes

Former Raider captain Reece Vitelli is headed south after signing a one-year contract with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, an affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.

Vitelli was one of five signings the Roadrunners announced on Wednesday. He attended training camp with the Coyotes prior to the 2021-22 WHL season, then returned to Prince Albert, where posted 25 goals and 51 points—both career highs—in 65 games.