Tanner Richard is the Guelph Storm’s version of the welfare department – always willing to offer a helping hand. The 19-year-old centre currently sits second in the Ontario Hockey League with 31 assists in 24 games, just two assists behind the leader Ryan Strome of the Niagara Ice Dogs.
The downside of the story sees Richard with just two goals on the season. It begs the question…is he so conscious of helping others he ultimately hurts himself and the team? The perfect example came in Saturday night’s 7-5 win over Ottawa when Richard found himself with the puck all alone with a wide open net and he didn’t even think about shooting, instead he tried to thread a pass through a couple of players that never found its mark.
“I know he wants to be a set-up guy but you have to score as well” said coach Scott Walker. “If they know he’s a passer (the other team) will play off him all the time. By scoring he actually helps his teammates (because the opponent will be forced to cover him more).”
Walker realizes he is fortunate to have a player with such good on-ice vision but would simply like to see a little more balance.
“When I was young I was kind of a puck-hog” admitted Richard, “but my dad (who played many years of professional hockey in Europe) said I should be passing more. This year has been really extreme (in the amount I have passed the puck) but I feel like opponents are starting to realize that and they’re saying ‘don’t worry about him defensively because he’s going to pass anyway’.”
And that’s the point. If the five players on the ice back off to cover the other four Storm players, it is tougher for them to find open ice. That is why Richard has to burn them enough times with goals to at least pull one defender towards him.
“He is probably one of the best (set-up men) in this league” said Walker. “He sees a lot of things that others don’t but you need to score too.”
Richard knows that and is trying to force himself to shoot more.
“In the last four or five games I’m getting at least four shots on net” said the native of Switzerland. “In talking with my dad he says I need to be trying to get unexpected shots on the goalie (to keep them honest).”
One player who has certainly has benefited from Richard’s sublime passing skills is Cody McNaughton. Since joining Richard and Zack Mitchell on the top line five games ago he has had six goals and Richard has set-up up all but one of them.
Richard, a third round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, is a special talent who simply needs to be a little greedier when it comes to shooting the puck. If he can do that he has a much better chance of eventually finding his way to the NHL.
From the Land of Oz…..The Storm is on a 4-0-0-2 run after an 8-0 win over Mississauga, a 3-2 win over Erie and their win over Ottawa…Scott Kosmachuk has six goals in his last three games….While Guelph leads the league with 111 goals, they have allowed 92, which is way too many. They have to tighten up defensively before the playoffs or they will be easy fodder when goals are harder to come by…For the first time this season Garret Sparks did not start in the game against Ottawa. Newly acquired Keegan Wilson got the call and while shaky, still managed to get the win…Tyler Bertuzzi could be back this weekend after missing several games with an upper body injury and Hunter Garlent, who is recovering from a broken ankle, is hoping to return the following week. Matt Finn’s status with mononucleosis is still up in the air.