Nolan Ritchie feels as if he has a lot to prove this season as the Brandon Wheat Kings season rolls on. The Brandon native played just 24 games last season after suffering a broken leg on November 22, 2019, when he slid into the boards in a game against the Calgary Hitmen.
Ritchie scored five goals and had six assists in his 24 games. And in a year where the league’s East Division is playing in a bubble in Regina, Ritchie is off to an incredible start.
Just six games into this season and Ritchie has already potted four goals and has nine points — two fewer than he had all of last season — and he’s played 18 fewer games.
Back on Tuesday, March 16, Ritchie had two assists in a defeat against Prince Albert and he followed that up by scoring two goals and adding one assist, two nights later, as Brandon beat Swift Current, 4-1. Two nights later, Ritchie kept it going as he scored once more and added one assist for another multi-point game as Brandon got past Regina, 3-2, in overtime.
And thanks to last week’s hot play, the Wheat King forward has been named the WHL’s Player of the Week, for the week that ended March 21.
“It’s a pretty special feeling, and it’s really cool to have that honour,” said Ritchie. “At the end of the day, it all comes down to the team effort, I couldn’t have this success without my great teammates.”
Brandon is back on the ice on Wednesday as they battle the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Wheat Kings (3-2-1) trail Moose Jaw for third in the East Division while the Saskatoon Blades have currently set the pace atop as they’ve only lost, in overtime, once in six games.
It’s a busy week overall for the organization as after tonight, the team plays two more games this week to make up a four-game week, one that started with a 6-4 loss against Saskatoon on Monday. Ritchie says the team is becoming closer every day and he believes that will be very beneficial for the team not only off the ice but on the ice as well.
“There are some areas we have to work on, but we’re playing pretty well I believe,” said Ritchie. “We just need to keep getting better every day and the rest will take care of itself.”
Hometown team dream:
Growing up in Brandon, Ritchie worked his way up the minor hockey system in the Wheat City. In the 2016-17 season, he scored 51 goals and had 89 points in just 36 games with the U15 AAA Wheat Kings while the young sniper put up 84 points when he joined the U18 Wheat Kings the following season.
It’s been nearly two years since Ritchie helped his U18 Wheat Kings win the Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League. He had one goal in the series clincher against the Winnipeg Wild in the final and overall in 11 playoff games, Nolan scored nine times while adding 12 assists.
After missing about half a season due to last year’s injury, Ritchie is just happy to be back playing with his hometown team, although the team will play no true home games this season.
“It’s a really special feeling to be a Wheat King, I grew up watching every game I could when they played at home,” ended Ritchie. “I wear this sweater with a ton of pride.”