Jan 28, 2021; Boston, MA; Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) controls the puck in front of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58)] during the first period at the TD Garden. Credit: Brian Fluharty

Nick Ritchie Should Take 7th Player Award Honors

It is quite comical to go back and read “heat of the moment” print articles from past hockey events.

Back on February 24 of last year, Nick Ritchie was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Boston Bruins for Danton Heinen. One-for-one. When that took place, the headlines were running rampant. Whether it was arguing that the trade for Ritchie was a “massive over-payment” or that the Bruins are now “less disciplined” with him in the lineup, conclusions were being drawn too quickly.

To be fair, reacting to occurrences that take place with a team that you cover is pretty much what needs to be done. It is hard to be too critical of those headlines.

Now, with over one year removed since the Ritchie/Heinen trade took place, it is time to accurately reflect on the deal.

Ritchie has played in 39 games with the Black and Gold. During the seven regular-season and eight playoff games he skated in last year, the 25-year-old winger posted just two goals and one assist.

However, he looks like a completely different player this year. Through 24 games, Ritchie has eight goals and seven assists for 15 points. The Orangeville, Ontario native is making smart decisions with the puck, creating his own scoring chances, and playing a physical style of hockey. He has played with different centers all season long, but the consistency has remained.

For comparison, let us just take a quick look at what Heinen has done during his time with the Ducks. In 28 total games, he has recorded six goals and four assists. Points are not the entire story when it comes to analyzing players and at times it could be an unfair comparison, but it does appear that Heinen is not thriving as much as he was during his time with the Bruins.

Both Ritchie and Heinen are minus players this season. The fact that they are on the ice when goals are being scored against their respective teams indicates that both could tighten up the screws defensively. That category is a wash. No one is perfect.

So, did Boston win the trade? Did Anaheim? The more important question is this: does it really matter?

Ritchie has had such low expectations put on him prior to the start of his first full season with Boston, which was probably due to him not living up to the hype of someone being drafted 10th overall in 2014. He has only maxed out at 14 goals (2016-17) and 31 points (2018-19).

Getting a fresh start with the Bruins—particularly during the 2020-2021 season—has allowed Ritchie to play his game while exceeding expectations in the eyes of B’s fans.

And what a coincidence, that is the exact definition of NESN’s Annual 7th Player Award. This is an easy one this year, B’s fans. Ritchie deserves it.