Keeping Ratcliffe down on the farm might be tall order for Flyers

Isaac Ratcliffe

VOORHEES, N.J. – With a 6-6, 210-pound frame, he probably could play linebacker for the Eagles or small forward for the Sixers.

But Isaac Ratcliffe would rather fill a role he does best, playing forward for the Phantoms and maybe someday for the Flyers.

The 19-year-old London, Ont. native used his size and physical presence to register 68 points in 67 games for Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League last season and managed to see some action with the Phantoms late in the season, too.

In a sport trending somewhat toward smaller, quicker forwards, Ratcliffe is proof that there’s still room in the game for a “power forward.’’

That said, he’s still working on adding some muscle to make him even more effective in one-on-one puck battles and so forth.

“My goal last camp was to get a lot stronger,’’ he said after a drill session at the Flyers’ Development Camp at the Skate Zone. “I had the size, I just needed to get heavier.

“This year I wanted to come back and really show I developed a lot this year, put on a few pounds and show that I could compete with the toughest guys in the league.’’

Ratcliffe was a second-round (35th overall) pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The Flyers liked his mobility for such a big man.

Toward the end of last season, he was averaging nearly a goal a game.

“I just wanted to show the guys that I’m a leader,’’ Ratcliffe said. “To show that I can do it,’’

Does he have a timetable as to when he might be NHL-ready?

“I know I still have a lot of developing to do,’’ he said. “I know the guys upstairs know that, too. They’re really pushing me to get to that point and I’m pushing myself. We’re not talking a specific time but I’m trying to get there as fast as possible and stick there as long as possible.’’

The taste of action with the Phantoms opened his eyes a bit.

“It’s a lot faster game when you get up there,’’ he said. “You get the puck on your stick, it has to get right off. You’ve got no time. You have to keep your feet moving, short shifts, keep your energy up as much as possible. Go into each shift with a clear mind. . .it’s a fast game.

“I was playing with 16-year-olds with Guelph and then I went up to the Phantoms and played with guys who are 30-plus years old. They’re a lot stronger, a lot more mature. They know the game a lot more.’’

Ratcliffe can play both wings and that versatility should help his chances for advancement.

General manager Ron Hextall seems to like where all of this is heading.

“Based on last season, he progressed probably like we hoped,’’ Hextall said. “He’s gotten quite a bit stronger. He’s a big guy with really good hands. We’re standing out there yesterday going ‘a guy that big shouldn’t have that good hands,’ he’s got good hands.

“He moves really well for his size and his age. You look at a 19-year-old kid who’s as tall as he is and as coordinated as he is, it’s not the norm. We’re excited about the prospects for him.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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