At what is a clearly a crossroads in his NHL career, it’s not lost on Ty Rattie that he is never going to get a better opportunity to prove he belongs in the best league on the planet than the one that awaits him playing on the right wing alongside Connor McDavid with the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s an encore, of course. Rattie, who has spent five pro seasons trying to find his niche since being drafted 32nd overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2011, played alongside McDavid during a 14-game stint with the Oilers at the end of last season. It’s a stretch in which he produced 5-4-9 and showed GM Pete Chiarelli enough to earn himself a one-year contract and, it turns out, a longer look-see beside McDavid.
“I’ve had my chances and been through a few teams and you can only have so many chances before the whole league just says, ‘Maybe you can’t do it,’” Rattie told reporters after fitness testing on the first day of training camp. “I thought about it every day I think. Just the player he is, who wouldn’t want to play there? I want to make the team first and foremost but I worked my whole summer to prove I can be in that spot. I probably skated twice as much as I’ve ever skated and I’m ready to go.”
Rattie, 25, scored 105 goals in 131 games in his final two seasons in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks. He hasn’t been able to find that same touch, or anything close to it, with any consistency in the NHL and he’s already on his third team after stops with the Blues and Carolina Hurricanes. Coach Todd McLellan says he’ll get that chance on a line with McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when on-ice sessions begin.
With first crack at it, the rest is up to Rattie. Produce and he keeps the job alongside McDavid. Falter, and he allows others like Tobias Rieder or Jesse Puljujarvi into the mix. While Rattie is far from a complete player, his ticket is the ability to get to open ice and to finish when he gets the puck. That’ll happen plenty playing with McDavid. The way I see it, Rattie’s opportunity is akin to heading to the blackjack table and drawing an ace to start every hand. If he can’t cash-in with these cards, it’s just not going to happen for him.
Much has already been said and written about Lucic after the terrible second half he had last season and there’s no doubt at all he comes into camp as the classic example of a redemption story. He’s a big-name player with a big contract who took a big fall last year. The question is, will Lucic stay down or will he rise again? I’m betting on the latter, although critics have plenty of ammunition with which to argue otherwise.
Lucic, who turned 30 June 7, looked upbeat and sounded positive during interviews he did on the first day of camp. He’s looking ahead rather than back, and it’s no wonder after he managed just one goal in his final 46 games last season, finishing with 10-24-34 during an utterly disappointing campaign for the entire team.
“I feel a lot better mentally,” said Lucic, who struggled mightily and lost confidence with the team out of contention. “Like I said, just leaving the past in the past and looking forward to what the new season presents.
“Just trying to get happy again, you know? Just happy going to the rink. I think it just starts with your summer workouts, you know? Waking up, jumping out of bed in the morning, enjoying going to the gym, enjoying working hard, enjoying pushing yourself. That type of stuff. Just having an optimistic, positive outlook on things. Not letting things dwell. Not letting things bring you down. I definitely learned a hard lesson with that last year.” You can listen to Lucic’s interview from today here.
A lot of people, me included, have tried to put a number to what a bounce-back season for Lucic might look like. The numbers matter, of course, when you’re making the kind of money Lucic does. For me, I want to see Lucic engaged and relentless, whether the puck is bouncing his way or not. Too often last season, that wasn’t the case as frustration took over. He seemed to shut down when things went bad. Lucic is a proud man and I won’t be even a bit surprised if he shoves it to the critics who insist he’s finished.