Brett Ritchie might just be exactly what the Bruins were looking for last season.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder isn’t going to be a 30-goal scorer, of course, and it’s still very much in question whether he’d be able to consistently handle the top-6 right wing spot where the Bruins have a big opening headed into this year.
But Ritchie is going to bring added size, strength and toughness as a 26-year-old forward that just a couple of seasons ago scored 16 goals for the Dallas Stars. He’s brawled with big, bad skaters like Colton Parayko and Tom Wilson and he very clearly brings the kind of size/strength combo that the Bruins just haven’t done a good job of developing among their forwards.
Ritchie was excited to sign with the Bruins in free agency on July 1 because he believes that his rough and tumble game will translate into exactly what’s traditionally been the Black and Gold style over the years.
“There’s definitely a size and strength aspect that’s still there in the league even though it’s getting faster,” said Ritchie. “It’s more skilled, but you definitely need that presence. I think I’m a well-rounded guy but I can definitely bring that physical side. St. Louis was in our division and I’ve played against those big and physical teams for my entire career.
“You grow seeing and thinking of the Big, Bad Bruins and [Boston] is a bigger market than I’m used to in Dallas. The winning culture [of the Bruins] is the feel you get playing against them all the time, so it’s definitely exciting.”
Sure, the Bruins still have Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and David Backes on their roster for size, strength and toughness, but those players absolutely needed more help, particularly among the forward group. The lack of true size, strength and NHL nastiness was on display in the Stanley Cup Final when the B’s were pushed around by the St. Louis Blues, and ultimately wore down against the Blues over the course of a long, physical seven-game playoff series.
The brute physicality is something Bruins fans clearly didn’t get enough of last season as attested to by the 29 percent of Bruins fans in the 2019 New England Sports Survey that thought the B’s needed bigger, stronger and tougher players on their roster. Hopefully Ritchie can help in that area a bit and perhaps Trent Frederic as well if the physical bottom-6 center can stick with the Bruins this season after getting a cup of coffee, and his first NHL fight, at the NHL level last season.
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