Richards a Diamond in the Rough

By Brad Coccimiglio

Player: Jeff Richards

Born: September 17, 1981

Hometown: Kenora, Ontario

Position: Left Wing

Number: 7

Height: 5’11″

Weight: 175 lbs

Shoots: Left

When the Soo Greyhounds drafted centre Jeff Richards in the 7th
round (148th overall) of the 1999 OHL draft I don’t think they expected him
to have much of an impact on the team this season.

Well, after his first 16 games Richards is becoming one of the top
rookies in the OHL. After 16 games Richards has posted 4 goals and 14
points. That puts him in 6th in team scoring behind Josef Vasicek (28
points), Cory Pecker (25 points), Ryan Jardine (24 points), Chad Spurr (19
points) and rookie sensation Trevor Daley (19 points).

The Greyhounds drafted Richards as an overage midget pick (an
18-year-old). Richards came into camp knowing that he would have to earn
a spot on the Greyhounds roster as the Greyhounds had a lot of players
coming back from last year’s club. He came into camp and did just that. He
worked hard and surprised a lot of people and earned himself a spot on the
Greyhound roster.

Greyhounds management has been pleased with the play of
Richards thus far in the season. He has received quite a bit of playing time
from Greyhounds coach Paul Theriault. Richards is playing a regular shift
as well as spending some time on the power play and killing penalties.

While playing in Kenora last season Richards picked up 32 goals and
48 points in 36 games. He also racked up 82 penalty minutes. When he
arrived in Sault Ste Marie the scouting reports said that Richards was a
strong skater with good offensive skills and he has shown the Soo faithful
that the scouting reports were right on the money.

Currently Richards is one of the OHL’s top scoring rookies behind
the likes of Derek Roy of the Kitchener Rangers, Stephen Weiss of the
Plymouth Whalers, Steve Ott of the Windsor Spitfires and Tomas Skivarildo
of the Kingston Frontenacs.

Looking at this yearâ’s rookie crop in the OHL a lot of them have been
playing great hockey. The race for the OHL rookie of the year will be tough
to decide due to the great play of so many rookies.
It’s not very often that a late round pick in the OHL draft comes in to
the league and has a major impact in their 1st year (some don’t play in the
league at all). Once in a while teams “steal” a player in the late rounds of
a
draft. A prime example would be former Soo Greyhound Ralph Intranuovo.
In the 1990 OHL draft the Greyhounds selected Intranuovo in the 8th round.
Three seasons later he led the team to a Memorial Cup title. I’m not saying
that Richards is going to lead the Greyhounds to a Memorial Cup title.
What I am saying is that late round picks can have a big impact on a teams
performance on the ice.

Looking at his statistics from last season you would think that
Richards is the type of player that is a pure goal scorer and he doesn’t get
too many assists. Looking at his 4 goal-10 assist point total so far this
season it shows otherwise. Richards is more of a playmaker than he was
last year and he only needs 6 assists to pass his assist total from last
season.

I think Richards could get 50 to 60 points this season if he stays
healthy. Right now he is injured and has not played in the Greyhounds last
5 games.

Richards has been a mainstay on the Greyhounds second line with
Cory Pecker and Tim Zafiris. The top line is Josef Vasicek, Chad Spurr and
Ryan Jardine. The top two lines change around a bit though depending on
who is hot.

Richards has definitely earned his place on the Greyhound roster.
Richards may not be the most talented players in the league but he
definitely has the talent to play against them and be successful.

When the Greyhounds first drafted Richards I’m sure that there were
not very many people that really knew who he was besides the people in
his hometown of Kenora and some of the OHL scouts. After the first 2
months or so of the season I’m sure that there are a lot more people that
know who Jeff Richards is. Who knows, maybe Richards is a late bloomer
and is just starting to realize the potential that he has. There is one thing
that I know for sure though, it’s the fact that Richards is going to be very
successful in the OHL in the seasons to come.