By: Stephanie Coratti
Three years ago, Isaac Ratcliffe was a 16-year-old rookie with 13 points on a team that finished last in the OHL.
Now, the six-foot-six, 204-pound forward is a signed Philadelphia Flyers prospect, fresh off of a career-high season that led the team offensively with 68 points, including 41 goals, while recently being recognized as the Storm’s 2017-18 Most Valuable Player.
“It was a tremendous honour,” Ratcliffe said of the MVP recognition, adding that following teammates Garrett McFadden and James McEwan makes it mean that much more. “I’ve been able to work with a lot of really great players this year… one guy who has really been a key to my success is Cam Hillis — he’s having a tremendous rookie year, and I’d say anywhere from 60-70% of my points, he’s had a touch on. Everything that I’ve had… all my success is a tribute to someone else.”
Looking back on the last three years as a whole, Ratcliffe continued to credit those who helped him get to this point — beginning with McFadden.
“He’s been a guy that I’ve looked up to since draft day when I first got selected to Guelph,” Ratcliffe said of his captain. “He’s been a leader since he got here, not only on the ice and in the room, but in the community as well. I don’t only look up to him as a hockey player, but as a person — everything he’s done in the community, the way he takes care of all the younger guys and makes sure everyone feels welcome… he’s been a big help for me.”
Second on the list was Storm Assistant Coach Luca Caputi.
“He’s taken me under his wing and really shown me what it’s going to take to become a pro player,” Ratcliffe offered. “He’s been a great offensive mindset, showing me the right plays to make, how to control my body, and things I need to work on to get to the next level… he’s been a great role model for me, and really pushed me forward to be the person and the player I need to be.”
Away from the rink, though, the foundation has always been his parents: Al and Elaine Ratcliffe.
“Those two… they’ve kept my dream my own and they haven’t pushed me to do anything I didn’t want to do,” Ratcliffe explained, adding his parents have always provided a means to get anywhere he wanted, no matter how far. “They always told me whatever I want to do, they’re going to support it, so they really allowed me to live my life and keep my dream alive here.”
A dream that has always been about so much more than being a hockey player — something Ratcliffe was also recognized for at the Storm’s 2017-18 Regular Season Awards.
“The off-ice means way more to me than the on-ice stuff,” Ratcliffe said of also earning the Fay Scott Memorial Award for outstanding commitment to the community and academics. “My mom… the one lesson she always taught me was you’re not a hockey player, you’re a person who plays hockey — that really stuck with me.”
With that comes a few other lessons the London, Ontario native has added on throughout his major junior career so far, including advice for his 16-year-old self.
“At the start of the year before my first season, I’d say be prepared for the long ride ahead — it’s not always going to be easy, but things are going to work out as long as you keep working,” Ratcliffe said. “At the end of the year, I’d remind him that you have to take a few bumps and bruises… the night’s darkest before the dawn, right?”
The biggest lesson of his OHL career, however, stands in positivity.
“You come to the rink every day with a smile on your face no matter what — you have to realize how lucky you are to be in this position,” he said, adding with a smirk that you always wear your hat forwards, too. “You wear your hat in the direction you want your career to go — that was a big one Todd Harvey taught me, and [Caputi and McFadden] reinforced.”
Forwards is certainly the direction Ratcliffe’s career is heading, as the 19-year-old netted his first professional goal in his first professional game with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms in April.
Undoubtedly, a sign of things to come for Isaac Ratcliffe.