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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto / USA TODAY Sports

Prospect wrap-up: David Rittich

One of the bigger stories down on the farm was the rise of David Rittich. The goaltender was a signing from the Czech Extraliga, a favourite market for the Flames in recent years. He was mostly brought in to solidify the goaltending depth in the AHL, which had been a mess after Jon Gillies went down with an injury early in 2015-16. Fair to say that he was mostly there for protection rather than as a potential impact player.

Of course, he became an impact player and stole the show for the Heat. It may have been absurd to think this a few months ago, but Rittich has become a possible answer to “what the heck are the Flames going to do for goalies next year?”

But is he that answer?

Brief history

Until being signed by the Flames during last year’s offseason, Rittich has been an unknown commodity. Never went to the WJCs, never played internationally. For the majority of his career, he has bounced up and down between the various rungs of his hometown HC Dukla Jihlava, slowly getting better as the years went by. Rittich was bought by BK Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Extraliga in 2014-15, and he made an unspectacular 23 appearances with a .891 SV%. His sophomore season was better, playing 48 of 52 games and finishing with a .919 SV%, earning the attention of the Calgary Flames.

2016-17 performance

SV% Shots against Goals against
# (Rank ) 0.924 (8th) 883 (31st) 41 (5th)

Ranked against the AHL’s definition of a qualified goaltender: 1440 minutes in net

Rittich didn’t see the workload Jon Gillies did in volume (313 more shots for Gillies) and per game (30.67 vs. 28.48), but he still performed better. One thousand shots is generally a nice sample size for judging goalies, and even though he’s pretty close to hitting that (about four or five more games’ worth of shots), you should take his SV% with a grain of salt.

The game-by-game reveals some minor problems. Rittich did have five shutouts, but he also had 12 games where he was below .900 SV%. Perhaps some of his earlier season struggles can be explained by an adjustment period, but for the most part, he was a pretty solid goalie.

Quotable

Brandon Kisker, Stockton Heat play-by-play man, offers some perspective on Rittich’s season:

He’s so calm. He’s never out of position and he’s extremely athletic. While Jon can steal the show with a show stopping save, Rittich always seemed to not need to make an incredible save because he was always in the right spot. Positionally sound goaltender for sure. The thing that strikes me was his rebound control. I think the two things you need to be an NHL goaltender is the ability to control where the puck goes and to be able to perform at the same level every game. You knew Rittich was going to give you his all each time he started as I could count on probably one finger a game where he was subpar in.  Other then that outlier, he was pretty consistent.

With uncertainty in the Flames’ net, where does he see Rittich’s NHL ceiling? Could he be a backup for the Flames next year?

I think he’s a legitimate NHL prospect and not just as a backup. I can see him playing in the NHL and not stopping until he’s a starter. To me, this is the kind of find that comes around once in a while. An unknown entity who exceeds expectations and is so well liked among his teammates that he could be that dark horse that nobody thinks about until he’s already seized an opportunity.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot to like about Rittich. He’s young-ish, had a good first North American season, and will come cheap.

But is he ready for the NHL yet? The answer to that question is way up in the air. Certainly, not many expected that he would be a name in contention for an NHL job, but is one-half season a good enough gauge to determine whether he is worthy of that job? He still has some flaws that need to be ironed out before he can make a serious case for the NHL net.

Based on the previous season’s results, he should have the inner edge over Jon Gillies, but no guarantees until September.

Previously

Hunter Smith, Jon Gillies, Andrew Mangiapane, Emile Poirier, Austin Carroll, Morgan Klimchuk, Mark Jankowski, Hunter Shinkaruk, Rasmus Andersson, Kenney Morrison, Tyler Wotherspoon, Oliver Kylington, Stepan Falkovsky, Keegan Kanzig/Mason McDonald, Ryan Culkin/Brett Pollock, Mitchell Mattson, Adam Fox, Brandon HickeyRiley Bruce/Nick Schneider, Tyler Parsons, Eetu Tuulola, Matt Phillips, Dillon Dube, Adam Ollas Mattsson, Linus Lindstrom, Pavel Karnaukhov/Rushan Rafikov, Tim Harrison

  • Roger the Shrubber

    Kisker’s comments should’ve been typed with caps-lock on.

    I think he’ll be in Stockton again next season as the starter. I don’t know who will be with the Flames as the back-up.

  • Just.Visiting

    As things stand at this point, we’re realistically a team that is in dogfight for a playoff spot and would need all cylinders connecting to advance more than one round. I continue to believe that next year is a year to build experience, to understand what we have and what we don’t and to position to be a more serious contender the following year. In that context, I’m very comfortable in signing Chad for two years and seeing if one of Riitch, Gillies or Parsons can grow into the 1A role by year end.

  • cjc

    There is no need to commit to Rittich to be the full-time NHL backup. If he’s re-signed he’ll still be waiver exempt, just like Gillies. Both could rotate in and out of the backup role, or Calgary could sign/trade for another backup and let Rittich/Gillies ply their trade in the AHL for another year – not ideal as they will also have Parsons in net there, but not the end of the world. The obvious thing to do is trade one of Rittich or Gillies for an asset they’ll be able to protect for the expansion draft, but I wouldn’t count on it.

        • OKG

          My point is that teams that make it deep in the playoffs have never traded a piece as valuable as Sam Bennett for a goaltender. It would be simply unprecedented. Even the Canucks’ Luongo/Bertuzzi trade was driven more by off-ice complications. Look at every team to make the SCF in the last decade, I’d wager not a single one of them traded such a valuable U21 piece for their goalie with the exception of Pittsburgh wasting a 1st overall on Fleury, which most would say was actually a bad pick.

        • BringtheFire

          So, Bennett was the highest rated player in his draft. If memory serves me, that rating was based largely on a blazing second half to his pre-draft year. So, right from the beginning, Sam was streaky and inconsistent. That’s all he’s been since, over two coaches and many linemates.

          Then there’s the fact that he essentially lied about the shoulder injury he had in camp which cost him his rookie season, ’till the playoffs. He did shine there but…Troy B., anyone?

          But right now, at this moment, he is a valuable commodity. And we have a glut of awesome goaltending prospects.

          I don’t want to wait and see on a prospect anymore. I want a number one. NOW. I have complete faith in Tre to put a team in place next year that will be twice as good as the current Habs could hope to be. Can you imagine Price with a team like the one we all hope to have in front of him?

          And Montreal needs to rebuild. It’s obvious to everyone who doesn’t wear a Habs jersey. And you start rebuilds by trading your best player for assets and picks and the like.

          That’s what we did.

          • BendingCorners

            Carey will be 30 this summer. He has one more year at 6.5MM after which he will be a UFA and quite possibly will command a 7-year contract worth 56MM. If he follow the progression of most goalies he will only be Price-like for 3 of those years and then Elliott-like for the remainder. Are you suggesting we trade Sam and some prospects and picks for one year? Either way I don’t see how this is a good deal for the Flames.

    • DKramer

      theres no way montreal would take that. A goalie prospect that has one year of pro experience, a high prospect and 2 picks will not even be close to enough for them.

          • Puckhead

            Where’s this proof that Bennett ‘essentially lied’ about his shoulder injury. Not sure if you can do a chin-up or pull-up but if something minor is not quite right with your shoulder or upper back they can be next to impossible to do.

            Also, you’ve just skidded Bennett, and high end prospect or two and a pick or more. How do the Flames fill these holes? We’re already deficient in some areas, plus we only have a handful of picks this summer. I’m sure Carey will be thrilled to be peppered with shots because his signing cost us the ability to shore up the D. It would essentially be a lateral move for him.

          • BringtheFire

            Puckhead, I’m cool with you like that, but a lateral move? You’re saying that both Calgary and Montreal are on the same trajectory?

            We are one d-man away from having the scariest top four D in the league. Montreal is in total soul-search mode because their success is based on an out-of-his-mind goaltender and the massive pile of loser points they have to get to stay competitive.

            If I’m Price, I think I’d feel the iceberg has been struck this season, and-outside of Pittsburgh-Calgary is as good a place for a cup as any.

            Maybe I’m whack, but my intentions are good…we need that .920+ more than we need Sam. And as fans, it’s something we deserve, and next season. There aren’t anymore excuses. We can’t look for a stopgap, we can’t afford to take another risk on an Elliott or a Raanta who haven’t taken a full starter’s load. We need someone genuine to mentor all those prospects we have.

            And Treliving said in the press conference after the injury that Sam knew about it during camp but tried to “push” because he wanted the team so bad, because he was young. So yeah, “lied” is way too harsh but he should have known better.

    • Moneyball

      Price will not leave for Bennett and some picks. Montreal made the Playoffs this year and is just a piece or two away from being a contender. Trading Price jut turns them into the flames with an under performing Bennett to match. Flames need to draft some more gritty forwards like Tkachuk and get one more 1st/2nd line dman.

    • freethe flames

      People who believe we are a Price away from being a contender are missing the point. The cost of acquiring Price will be much higher than Bennett and a package; think one of Johnny/Monny/Tkachuk and at least the package mentioned. This team also needs to add at least 2 defenders and must find a way to completely change the $10m 4th line, plus add a another top 9 forward; then this team can take the next step. Remember we were tied for the fewest points to make the playoffs and were swept in the first round.(yes we should have one at least a game but didn’t)

  • Hubcap1

    At this point I can see one of Rittich or Gillies being trade bait. The focus, I’m sure is to find a starter. Still waiting.

    Mid/Late June can’t get here fast enough.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Personally I can’t see packaging Gillies or Rittiich until we see what Parsons can do as a pro. Rittiich seems to be more ready but Gillies needs to show more consistency in the AHL. I hope one of them is a back up so that Parsons can play semi-regularly in the AHL, next year.

  • freethe flames

    He was a pleasant surprise and the Flames should resign him, if for no other reason than to remain credible in the over seas FA market. He and Gilles could potentially battle for the back up position and even flip from the AHL. The key is to get the right starter. Thats up to BT to do.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I agree, if they get a legit #1 then either would be suitable. If however they take a chance on someone like grubbar then we need a proven back up.

  • BendingCorners

    I didn’t see either Jon or David play much this year but what little I did see, especially when they played for the Flames, suggested to me that maybe Jon is readier to be an NHL backup than David. Regardless, I think one of them will likely be our backup next year, and the other will be traded for MAF along with a few other pieces back and forth, with the end result that the Flames will have an extra pick this year. More than happy to keep both and sign either Brian or Chad – neither of those two is great but both can be good for extended stretches of games.

  • Puckhead

    It’s 9:34 on May 28 and I hope that Brouwer is in the middle of a jog, shooting picks at a net, boxing in a gym, meeting with his sports psychologist…….

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Doesn’t have the track record to start in Calgary nor the experience to backup here. Will mess with Gilles development in Stockton and possibly block Parsons entry there.

    It’s back to the old country or Omsk for Rittich.

  • everton fc

    Right now, I believe Rittich is the better goalis, vs. Gillies. Right now, that is. I get this feeling fi we trade or lose Rittich, he’ll come back to bite us like Kipper did to the Sharks all those years ago.

    The reports I read about Rittich are nothing but positive. In fact, one of the traits he has shown, according to those closest to him, in terms of coaching and actually seeing him play regularly, neither of which most of us here have intelligence on… Is he’s very calm in the net. Never panics. This is an incredible plus for any goalie.

    I think trading Bennett is crazy. We don’t need to make major moves. We need a #4 d-man (or a #3 that would push Brodie to #4 – that would be most ideal), we need anotehr scoring RW (but leave Ferland on the first line w/Gaudreau and Monahan, and leave Tkachuk to learn the game from Backlund and Frolik)… Re-sign Versteeg… Hopefully retain Chiasson… Give at least Kulak a chance, and sign Stone cheap (there’s your 5/6 pairing – or simply go w/Kulak and Andersson as 5/6)… And we need a goalie who will come cheap (either cheap payroll, and/or cheap asset exchange). At some point, we have to see if eitehr Rittich or Gillies can play as a backup in the NHL. Other teams do this… And many times find they already have a goalie “ready”, in their system.

    (Sort of related, a few players we should kick tires on this summer if we can jettison Bouma and Brouwer; Antoine Roussel, Radko Gudas, Taylor Hall, Gabriel Landeskog. In net, I still think Fleury for Brouwer has to be explored. Ditto Brouwer to Vegas).

    • BlueMoonNigel

      That’s a lot of the old gang back that got swept by the Ducks. Granted the Flames had horrendous luck in that series, but do you really believe the usual suspects will be good enough next season to take out the Ducks or Oilers because I don’t. If Nashville is not an eight-day wonder, then there is another club that will feed us our lunch. Jets are a good goalie and a good coach away from being a player. I think the Flames have to add some talent to the lineup. Whether it comes from the farm or by a trade or, a FA signing, it matters not. The club is much further in its growth than I imagined, but other clubs are growing too.