Prep Watch is a new weekly feature on THN.com that focuses on minor hockey prospects destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA – and hopefully one day, the NHL.
It’s unfair to put a load of pressure on a 15-year-old to help resurrect a storied franchise, but the Western League’s Portland Winter Hawks could do a lot worse than counting on Ty Rattie.
The Alberta-based sniper is currently tearing up the province’s midget circuit for the UFA Bisons of Strathmore, where he sits atop the league scorers with 17 goals and 24 points in 13 games. He also boasts four game-winning goals to date, so it’s not like he’s padding his resume.
As the No. 2 pick behind Red Deer’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in last year’s WHL bantam draft, Rattie is expected to do big things for the struggling Winter Hawks next season. He was already impressive in an exhibition stint with the club, rattling off three goals and five points in just three pre-season games.
So was that a pleasant shock to the Hawks brass?
“Honestly, no,” said Portland advance scout Matt Bardsley. “What enables Ty to do what he does is his character. He’s a very mature young man, very focused.”
Despite the early success, Rattie knows midget hockey and Dub hockey are very different games.
“It’s so much faster, so you have to take shorter shifts and you can’t just go end-to-end,” Rattie said of his WHL experience. “I just have to work hard so I can be a contributor and not a healthy scratch when I get up there.”
Based on his pedigree, that’s probably not much of a concern for the Hawks, who saw Rattie gel nicely with another high draft pick: 17-year-old power forward Riley Boychuk.
“He’s going to make people around him better,” Bardsley said of Rattie. “He’s a goal-scorer, but he’s smart enough to know he draws players away from his teammates, leaving them open.”
The fact Rattie has to wait a year before joining the WHL is a symptom of the league drafting players one year before their compatriots in the Ontario and Quebec Leagues do. So whereas a player such as John McFarland went right into the Sudbury Wolves lineup the same year he was drafted, Rattie had another year of midget to go. Still, this suits the right winger just fine.
“It gives you one more year for preparation,” Rattie said. “Just to go up for training camp and see what things are like really helped.”
And once he gets there, the kid from small-town Alberta will be living in big city Portland, Ore. It’s something Rattie can’t wait to jump into.
“All the veterans were great to me when I came up, it was definitely the best experience of my hockey career,” he said. “You run into fans in the city and they know all about the Hawks.”
And soon Portlanders will know all about him. If you’re looking for a comparison, Rattie likes to watch Ottawa Senators star Jason Spezza, a player who’s skill-set is similar to his. Ironically, Rattie still wants to improve his on-ice awareness and positioning, something Spezza wouldn’t suffer from himself.
The big showcase for Rattie this season will be the Mac’s AAA Tournament in Calgary, which happens over the Christmas holidays. It’s there where he hopes to display the wicked shot that is a hallmark of his game.
“Ty shoots to score,” Bardsley said. “He tries to put the puck through the net.”
Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.
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