HAMILTON, Ont. – First, it was wrist shot on a penalty shot placed top corner, blocker side. Then, 54 seconds later, the puck was barely on his stick before it was past the Russian goaltender.
Sounds like just another night at the office for Taylor Raddysh, arguably the OHL’s most prolific offensive player this season.
“Yeah, I’ve seen him score a lot,” said Kris Knoblauch, Raddysh’s coach with the Erie Otters. “He has had streaks like that. It was good for him. He was very excited to play this game.”
Raddysh’s two goals late in the second period turned a tie into a two-goal advantage and paced the OHL team to a 5-2 win in the second leg of the Canada-Russia Series on Monday night.
But more importantly for Raddysh, the small stretch allowed him to exhibit the reason why he’s under consideration for the Canadian world junior team.
“It was a positive game for him,” said Dominique Ducharme, the Canadian coach who happened to be behind the bench Monday. “He’s a goal scorer and he scored two goals against a Russian team that’s tough on defence.”
Raddysh leads the OHL in scoring with 45 points. His 18 goals are second overall, one behind American winger Alex DeBrincat, his Otters teammate.
That output is a big reason why the Otters (15-4-2) remain an OHL contender again despite first-line centre Dylan Strome and top defenceman Travis Dermott moving on to pro hockey. Some guy named Connor McDavid, Erie’s captain two years ago, is still junior eligible, too.
This offensive game could also be his world junior ticket even though he wasn’t even invited to Hockey Canada’s summer camp.
“I hope it’s helped a little bit with that,” Raddysh, 18, said.
Team Canada could sure use someone with a consistent scoring touch when the tourney begins in Toronto next month. Canada went 2-3 last year, scoring 12 goals in the four games not involving Denmark.
There are nine potential returnees, including eight forwards. However, Mitch Marner (Toronto), Travis Konecny (Philadelphia), Anthony Beauvillier (Islanders), Lawson Crouse and Strome (Arizona) are all in the NHL.
Hockey Canada director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski said he’s hopeful some teams will loan their players, but there’s certainly no formal agreements in place.
On top of that, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds captain Blake Speers, who played three NHL games with New Jersey, is out with a broken bone in his wrist. Jankowski said Speers is expected to be ready for the start of camp next month. However, he called the status of Brandon Wheat Kings’ Nolan Patrick, the consensus 2017 top pick, week to week (upper body). His inclusion for camp is questionable.
If the start of the season and Monday are any indications, Raddysh can help pick up the slack.
In Hamilton, Raddysh was awarded a penalty shot when he was hooked on a breakaway by Russian blueliner Kamil Fazylzyanov and scored on his attempt. Less than a minute later, Mississauga Steelheads centre Mike McLeod won a faceoff to the right of goaltender Anton Krasotkin and Raddysh whipped a shot home. The two goals made it 3-1 with 3:24 left in the second.
The Caledon, Ont., native started playing hockey before he turned five. He made the Otters as a rookie in 2014, affording him the opportunity to play with his older brother, Darren, for the first time since they were lacrosse teammates as kids.
He scored 21 and 24 goals in his first two OHL seasons, enticing the Tampa Bay Lightning to chose him in the second round (58th overall) in June.
If there’s a knock on Raddysh it’s his skating, something he’s aware of and vows to improve. He generally scores his goals by getting close to the net and using his wicked shot. Skating has become such a big part of today’s game, seemingly a strike against the 6-foot-2, 209-pound winger.
However, Ducharme said he wants players that can “be dominant in one area.” Jankowski doesn’t want to discount the importance of the slot either – especially since the tournament’s games are on a 200-by-85 foot rink.
“You’re just closer to the net in North America, which means guys that can shoot and guys that can score have an easier time scoring here because they’re closer to the net,” he said. “It does change the makeup a little bit, but the blueprint is to take the best players no matter what.”
When it was suggested his description fit that of Raddysh, Jankowski replied: “It does. He was on the radar coming into this game and will still stay on the radar.”
Raddysh can only hope so. And he thinks like he fits the bill.
“I feel like when I’m open in the slot I definitely have a pretty good shot (to score) most times,” he said. “Right now, it’s working for me. Hopefully they see that. I’ve just got to continue to do this.”