Wednesday, November 21, 2012

While the NHL is dark, Ty Rattie is shining bright.

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: November 21st, 2012| Contact  |

The NHL lockout affects more than just current NHL players. Just ask Blues' prospect Ty Rattie. Rattie, currently a member of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, was eager to make his way to St. Louis for the 2012 pre-season training camp; those plans were halted when the NHL locked out the players on Sept. 15. Rattie was not expected to make the Blues roster, but it was the perfect opportunity for the Blues to evaluate their prospect, and for Rattie to show himself off to the people that will ultimately determine his hockey future.

"With Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz both going to likely be (in the NHL) I don't see the need (for the Blues to consider putting him on the roster)," said Corey Pronman of "He's a non-elite 19-year old prospect so it would simply burn the entry level year and put him in an overwhelming environment."

The Blues, unsurprisingly, signed Rattie, 19, to an entry-level contract this offseason. Rattie, who is coming off of a 121-point 2011-12 WHL season, opened some eyes to his skill, and he's now a prospect the Blues are keeping their eyes on.

"Ty had a great offensive season (in 2011-12) and an impressive performance in the playoffs," Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in a statement announcing the Rattie signing. "We are excited about his potential and look forward to him joining our organization."

Pronman also sees the talent Rattie possesses.

"He's the kind of player who makes plays, controls the puck and stands out from the pack with his creativity," said Pronman. "Those kind of tools make him very intriguing and it's what I think really drives value in today's NHL." 

The potential that Armstrong alluded to has been noticed by others as well. Last season was a huge one for Rattie, as he accumulated 121 points (57 goals, 64 assists) in 69 games. Corey Pronman thinks that Rattie's production is the result of his high skill level, but says it's hard to evaluate a player just based on his production.

"(Last season) wasn't a fluke, he's a good player but a player at any level is the product of his own abilities, his environment/usage by the coach  and random variance. He played with a top-tier prospect in Sven Baertschi all year and was part of a very good offensive team (that part hasn't changed). Production should also be a very secondary element to prospect evaluations because it's very hard to quantify the usage and randomness aspects of Junior hockey on top of other reasons.  Barring a very dramatic drop in production I wouldn't really alter my projection for Rattie.

Pronman, in a Hockey Prospectus post, projected Rattie to be a 'great second-line winger', listing his offensive game, and his hockey sense as his strong points, while admitting his defense needs a bit of work. Pronman also pointed out Rattie's lack of size, but says it's normal for a player to be a bit on the small side under 20. Rattie stands at 6'0, and weighs only 176 pounds, the average NHL player weighs more than 200 pounds.

"All under-20 players have to bulk up a ton," said Pronman. "The only exceptions are special talents/number one picks whose talent can play in the NHL in spite of their strength levels."

Rattie told the Oregonian that his main focus this offseason was to get bigger and stronger, at the request of the Blues.

"I ate everything. My mom made four meals a day, plus three snacks. ... Work out, eat, sleep was pretty much my daily schedule. (I am) just too small to be (in the NHL) that's for sure. St. Louis said, 'You gotta put some weight on' and that was my big focus."

Rattie was off to a slow start this year. He had only one point in his first five games, but he went on a 13-game streak where he registered at least a point per game helping to propel him to his current totals of 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games. Last season Rattie was on a line with Sven Baertschi, and the two were dynamite together. Baertschi has since moved on to the AHL's Abbotsford Heat, now it is Nic Petan with whom Rattie has found chemistry. His goal this year is to lead the Portland Winterhawks through the playoffs, and to the WHL finals, where the Winterhawks lost a game 7 to Edmonton last year. Rattie is also planning to address the areas that could prove problematic in the NHL. Besides his size, Rattie needs to improve his defensive game.

"Rattie needs to bulk up a lot and his overall physical game is just okay," said Pronman. "His defense needs a fair amount of work, too. Some scouts differ from me on this, but I feel he tries to do too much offensively, forcing plays."

Rattie is potentially as close as a year away from the NHL if he can continue to produce, and adjust his game to the liking of the Blues. Pronman's evaluation of Rattie concludes that Rattie can become a great second line winger. In terms of where Rattie is among Blues' prospects, Pronman, and many others, consider him the Blues' third-best prospect behind Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz.

"Tarasenko is one of the NHL's elite prospects," concluded Pronman. "He has star-level potential. Schwartz has a tremendous level of skill and hockey sense. While he isn't at a player like Tarasenko's level mostly due to his physical game and skating, he has the tools to potentially play a top line down the road on the wing. Rattie's a tick or two below Schwartz as he projects more as a quality second line player although his skill level is pretty high as well."

Tarasenko will play with the Blues when the lockout ends, with Schwartz potentially seeing some NHL ice time as well. Rattie appears to be on the right track, but his development will continue for at least another year, possibly two, before he can be considered NHL-ready.

"It's all dependent on the development of the player and the evolution of the team's roster," Pronman said. "In a vacuum given his talent, age, and strength level one can typically say in 1-2 years (he will be NHL-ready) but with a fair amount of uncertainty tagged to that."

What is certain, is that Rattie has potential. He was a second round pick in 2011, and what his potential was, and is, remains unknown. His WHL career has been impressive, but the ever-important questions is: can he become an effective NHL player? The answer to that question will be presented sooner rather than later.