It’s easy to understand why Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere believes prospect Isaac Ratcliffe should follow an example set by Zack MacEwen in his quest to make the Flyers.
MacEwen was perhaps the most physical player in Philadelphia’s lineup last season and held other teams’ heavy hitters accountable.
Laperriere had a chance to coach Ratcliffe, a second-round draft pick in 2017, for 59 games at Allentown last year and offers one clear observation.
While Ratcliffe was a 50-goal scorer in junior hockey, it’s obvious he will have to use his 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame as more of a grinder at the NHL level.
“You have to find something that’s going to help you get to the NHL and keep you there,’’ Laperriere said after a training camp session at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “For him it’s not scoring 50 goals like he did in junior.
“We can talk to him all day but it’s got to come from him. It’s not easy. You’re used to scoring those nice goals in junior when you play against kids. But when you get to this level, playing against men, you need to find your man’s game.’’
Ratcliffe did earn a 10-game trial with the Flyers toward the end of last season and didn’t look out of place, registering a goal/four points with a minus-1.
“I feel like for him, and I’m not talking about fighting, I’m talking about being physical on the forecheck,’’ Laperriere said. “He’s a big man, he’s got a long reach. He has to be strong on his feet. I feel like at the end of last year he was going in that direction.
“Zack plays a big man’s game. He’s obviously tougher than ‘Rat,’ he plays a north game, chip it in behind their D and forecheck. Rat should take a page out of his book. It (fighting) is not fun but it pays the bills.’’
Ratcliffe, a native of London, Ontario, Canada, seems to be getting the message.
“I want to go out there and just be physical,’’ he said. “Be able to make plays. I’m playing with Mac again tonight (in Buffalo). We’ve been together all week and I played with him last year, too.’’
The trial with the Flyers last season was a bit of an eye-opener.
“I thought I did pretty well,’’ he said. “I showed a lot of energy, I brought a physical element to my game. I think that’s something I’ve been trying to do for a long time. To bring that energy to the club I think is something I have to work on consistently. That’s what is going to keep me up here for the long haul. That energy, that size and I have that ability to make plays is kind of what I want to focus on.’’
Meanwhile, MacEwen is ready to take up where he left off last season.
Some might have thought he may have gotten a little anxious when the Flyers signed another physical player, free agent Nic Deslauriers but MacEwen sees benefits from the move.
“I worry about what I can worry about, control what I can control,’’ he said. “It’s good in a way because there is someone (else) who can do that stuff, can maybe help both of us focus on our game side of things more and not worry about that fighting aspect as much. That could make a turn in both our games where we have that help.’’