The Erie Otters’ Taylor Raddysh has firmly ensconced himself on the draft boards with his size, grit, and goal-scoring. And this year, he is helping himself out by racking up the helpers – though that is a skill he said he has always had, despite not being able to show it last year as an OHL rookie.
The 6’2, 200-pound right winger from Caledon, ON finished the regular season with 24 goals and 49 assists in 67 games. Last year, he accounted for 21 goals as a rookie – but only added six assists. It is a bit of a statistical anomaly, Raddysh said.
“My whole career I’ve been pretty 50/50 passing and assists-wise. Last year, it felt that scoring was better for me and the assists just didn’t come,” he said. “This year, playing with guys like Dylan [Strome] and Alex [DeBrincat], it’s definitely helped my assists a lot more.”
Otters’ head coach Kris Knoblauch said that the explosion of assists is a combination of opportunity and, interestingly enough, psychology.
“A lot of it has been opportunity playing with guys like Strome and DeBrincat who are goal scorers and can put the puck in the net. I think last year, he could have been setting up guys just as much, but they weren’t going to score nearly as often,” Knoblauch explained. “But I also think that when you’re kind of the young guy on that line, you take on a mentality of pass-first, shoot second, just because when you play with more experienced guys, it’s more of a seniority thing.
“You only want to be shooting if you’re certain that that’s definitely the right choice. If you’re not certain it’s the right choice, then you tend to pass. In my mind, I think Taylor is a goal-scorer.”
Knoblauch added that he is expecting even more growth and a more dominant goal-scoring performance next season from Raddysh.
“I think he’s ready to be ‘The Guy’ on the line. And next year with maybe Strome being gone and DeBrincat being back – probably still playing on a line with DeBrincat – but there will be a young guy playing with them,” he said. “I saw more of him taking charge early in the year with the first four games of the season and over the couple of games when players left for the World Juniors – [Kyle] Maksimovich, DeBrincat, and Raddysh on a line was more equals out there and he felt he had to take over more, so you saw him shoot the puck.”
Raddysh is ranked 28th – two behind linemate Alex DeBrincat – in the latest ISS rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s ranked 35th amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in their final rankings.
“I definitely try not to pay too much attention to the rankings, but definitely you see things on social media and hear about things,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to be known as one of the top guys in this draft. Late first round, second round, it doesn’t matter where you go – it’s a privilege to be drafted.
“You have to first play for your team. That’s what the NHL is looking for – you have to first be a team guy and provide and help your team win games.”
It is that willingness to play a role and be a team guy that is going to make Raddysh an attractive option to a team, Knoblauch said.
“I think last year he got a lot of recognition for being a goal scorer. He got 21 goals with zero power play time. This year, he’s definitely had an expanded role with the graduation of some players and he’s been able to play with a lot better players – playing most of the year with DeBrincat and Strome,” Knoblauch said. “I think where he showed how smart he was, he was able to play with those high skill guys and show that he wasn’t just a mucker or grinder, or a guy that just plays a north-south kind of game. He’s good at passing as well.”
“Definitely with all the hype with both of them here last year – they were the top prospects in the draft and they were the faces of that draft — to see what they went through every day was a lot of help for me,” Raddysh said. “I wouldn’t say it was as much [this year], with Connor and Dylan going first and third overall. It was really special for them. They’re both world-class players. But it’s been good for me and Alex. We’ve definitely had our shine out there and it’s been lots of fun.”
Also helping to pave the way has been Raddysh’s older brother Darren, who is a defenseman on the Otters. Taylor said the opportunity to play with his sibling has been both enjoyable and has helped his transition.
“It’s a lot of fun, I’ve really enjoyed it so far. Especially last year, with it being my rookie season, it was great to come in here and have him help me with all the little things to learn about,” he said. “It’s been really comforting and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
There may be a comfort level amongst the two brothers, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a spirit of competition between the two.
“We’re always competitive with everything we do,” he said. “We joke about certain things, whether it’s points or plus/minus – things like that, but we just have lots of fun.”
So who is the better Raddysh brother? Taylor’s answer is a masterclass in diplomacy.
“I think we’re both better at different things and we just do what we’re good at and what we’re the best at,” he said. “That’s what we are.”
Older brother Darren is a defender, but that had absolutely nothing to do with why Taylor chose to play forward. In fact, the reason is far more practical.
“I didn’t have the best backward skating when I was younger, so that was mostly the reason behind why I played forward,” Raddysh explained. “I just felt like I was better at the offensive game.”
Raddysh said he’s focused this year on developing his two-way game, knowing that defense is the key to taking the next step.
“I feel like last year to this year I’ve made a big jump in my defensive game. Last year, I felt I just didn’t have the best plus/minus and things like that,” he said. “But this year I’ve taken a big step towards that and it’s helped me a lot.”
He credits his coaching staff with helping him improve that part of his game.
“It’s just focusing more on being in the right spots,” he said. “Our coaches have really helped me develop my defensive game, just working a lot of video and teaching me what to do.”
Knoblauch added that Raddysh has been underrated for the things he does well – such as his speed – which could be augmented by improving those all-important first steps.
“I think like so many younger guys who are big, it’s about getting quicker and faster starts,” Knoblauch said. “He doesn’t get enough credit for how fast he is. He does get by defensemen going wide. His top speed is pretty good and I don’t think he gets enough credit for that. But just those first three steps need to be improved.”
Raddysh’s size, two-way play, and willingness to embrace the team dynamic will serve him well in the future, he believes.
“I feel the way I play, I could be a top-six forward or a bottom-six forward,” he said. “Whether it’s to produce offensively or playing a physical shut-down role, I feel both would work out for my career and hopefully that will happen.”
Caledon is not far from Toronto, but while Raddysh was able to see some Maple Leafs’ games as a youth – and counts the team as one of his two favorites, along with the New Jersey Devils – he added that his favorite player growing up played between the pipes.
“My favourite player growing up was Martin Brodeur, actually. I was a really big fan of his in my younger years,” Raddysh said. “But since he retired, one of the guys I’ve modelled myself after is Jeff Carter – he’s a big, fast winger who is good at both ends of the ice.”
Raddysh frequently watched the Leafs in his youth and admits it would be an incredible experience to go from being in the stands to performing on the ice.
“I used to go to [Leafs’] games when I was younger as I would get tickets to the [Air Canada Centre]. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It’d definitely be cool to be drafted by one of those teams, but it really doesn’t matter to me. Wherever I go or wherever I happen to be chosen, it’ll be a great honor.”
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