By Paul Osborne, Guelph Mercury
Isaac Ratcliffe will be the captain of your Guelph Storm next season and I have no doubt that GM and coach George Burnett has made an excellent decision in awarding him that honour.
I’ve seen all kinds of young men come through the Storm organization since the first training camp back in 1991 and every so often you recognize a leader at a very early age. Ratcliffe is one of those players. He is hard working, poised, well spoken, level headed and a great player.
“It was a very natural choice,” said Burnett. “We have a strong leadership group here but he has established himself as one of the elite players in the league and I’ve never questioned his work habits in practice or in a game, even when he has played at less than 100%.
“Last year he didn’t get off to a great start scoring wise but he was still a difference maker. It wasn’t just when we needed a big goal … he blocked shots and played well in tough buildings, he cared.”
Even after a tough loss, when called out to talk to the media, he offered heart felt, well thought out answers that showed his maturity.
“It is going to be awesome,” Ratcliffe said. “It is something I have been driving toward since I arrived in Guelph – to be recognized as a leader. It will be important to put in the work during practice and off-ice training but also to be approachable. If I see a guy that isn’t playing his best or is struggling I want to be able to talk to him and help him through that.”
It was only three years ago he was a rangy, 16-year-old rookie trying to make the jump to major junior so he remembers how difficult that can be.
“Moving away from home at 16 is one of the hardest things to do,” said the Philadelphia Flyers second round draft pick. “You are leaving your family and friends and moving in with a new family and there aren’t too many familiar faces around. (The younger players are also) used to being used in every single situation during minor hockey, now they are lucky if they get 12 minutes a game or even in the line-up. I will be able to talk to them and let them know ice time is something that is earned.”
Ratcliffe has been through some tough times in Guelph. His teams didn’t make the playoffs in the first two years and last year bowed out in the first round, but he feels that will help him be a better leader.
“Last year we learned what it takes to get past the first round and I had lots of talks with Garrett (McFadden, last year’s captain) and that’s helped me,” said Ratcliffe. “I expect a big year next year and there are already so many great leaders on this team in Zach (Poirier), Schnarzy (Nate Schnarr) and Sammy (Dimitri Samorukov) and guys like Barret Kirwin and Cedric Ralph may not be the loudest guys in the room but they show their leadership through their work ethic. Then there is Liam Hawel, and Cam (Hillis), Ryan Merkley and right down the line.”
Ratcliffe is natural leader and will make others feel they are an important part of the team’s success.
“To me it’s more about character than anything else,” he said. “It is a 24/7 job and one I’m looking forward to.”
From the Land of Oz . . . The Storm announced the signing a RW Ty Collins this week. He was listed at six feet tall on draft day but Burnett said he is now closer to 6-foot-2. “His ability to score is something he did well this past year. He’s got good size and skates very well,” said the GM and coach. Collins turned 16 this week . . . It was revealed that long time Storm equipment manager Russ Hammond will take a step back with the team, only working home games this coming season . . . The Storm will likely announce a new goaltending coach this week. Matt Smith stepped down last week after six seasons with the team.
— Paul Osborne covers the Guelph Storm for the Guelph Mercury Tribune