Monday, July 15, 2013

From Portland to St. Louis: Ty Rattie's focus is to be in NHL

After helping Winterhawks to WHL title, Blues' 2011
second-round pick will get every opportunity to make big club

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- He broke out with a 110-point season that culminated with a 36-point postseason that saw the Portland Winterhawks claim the Ed Chynoweth Cup as champions of the Western Hockey League.

Come to think of it, Ty Rattie almost never gave the Winterhawks a chance after living through a terrific 2012-13 season.

The Blues' second round pick (32nd overall) in 2011 would turn an innocent phone call into a blossoming career in the WHL.

(Getty Images)
Blues prospect Ty Rattie helped lead the Portland Winterhawks to the
WHL championship in 2013 with 36 points in 21 postseason games.
"It was exciting. I got drafted as a 15-year-old," said Rattie, in town last week working out with fellow Blues prospects. "The way the organization (in Portland) was, I didn't want to go. It was really low, but (Portland coach) Mike Johnston called me and I'm real glad I got to go there. I'm really lucky I got to go there. I wouldn't be standing here today if I didn't go to Portland. It's one of my favorite places on earth now."

Rattie's most important decision might have been to become a Portland Winterhawk and heeding the words of Johnston, but he can take it back a few months to when he made the ultimate choice of sports.

Hockey or baseball?

Rattie was also an ascending baseball player. A Toronto Blue Jays fan at heart with the Cardinals a close second, Rattie had a puck in one hand and a baseball in the other. Decisions, decisions. Which would it be?

Ultimately, the hockey twig won out over the baseball swinging stick.

"Big baseball player," said Rattie, who played shortstop and took in a Cardinals game while in town. "I had to pick between baseball and hockey at the age of 15. Lucky for me I picked hockey because I was better at the time."

And as Rattie, 20, made a name for himself with Portland on the ice, he can only hope that his accomplishments in the WHL can parlay into a promising career in the NHL.

Rattie, who's listed at 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds, went from 37 points in 2009-10, 79 in 2010-11, 121 in 2011-12 and another 110 points this past season with the Winterhawks. In 269 career games, he has 151 goals and 348 points. Rattie helped lead Portland to a WHL championship this past season with a six-game series win over the Edmonton Oil Kings but saw the Winterhawks fall short of a Memorial Cup. Portland, which was 57-12-1-2 in the regular season, followed it up by going 16-5 in the WHL postseason. Rattie was a key catalyst with 20 goals and 36 points in 21 games.

Now the focus turns to becoming a pro after Rattie signed his three-year entry-level contract at $2.775 million.

And the goal for Rattie, who worked out here with fellow prospects for the third straight summer, is to increase his body's physical mass.

"Try and get bigger," Rattie said, repeating virtually what he's said the past two summers as well. "I want to put on some weight. I've been working out for a couple weeks now. I've already put on five pounds, so I'm on the right track. Maybe another five pounds before training camp. Everyone that comes to training camp is pushing for a roster spot. I'm going to come in here, work my hardest, do whatever they need me to do and go from there.

"They tell me to get bigger, but I don't want to get too big. I don't want to lose my shiftiness, I don't want to lose my speed because if I lose that, I'm just going to get killed up here. Put five more pounds on, not anything more. You've got to stay quick in this game, you've got to stay fast. Smaller guys can play in this game nowadays. As long as you're shifty and quick, I think you'll be fine."

Rattie will get a real good look from Blues brass in camp in September, which will be his second training camp in St. Louis. If it doesn't happen then, it's off to the American Hockey League to play for the Blues' affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.

The Blues will be careful with this. Piling up points in the WHL doesn't necessarily mean it translates to the NHL. But Rattie will have a plethora of eyes observing his every move.

"He's going to get a real good look at training camp," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said of Rattie. "He's going to get a look with some of our better players. It's a big step from junior hockey to the NHL. He's a talented goal-scorer. He's scored at every level. He'll get a look and if he's ready to play ... that would be the same with (Dmitrij) Jaskin. But if they have to end up in Chicago, (assistant GM) Kevin McDonald and (Wolves GM) Wendell Young have done an outstanding job of supplementing that roster.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ty Rattie (right) in a preseason game against the Colorado Avalanche in
2011, battles the Avs' Duncan Siemens for the puck.
"They're going to be playing with very good players and whether they're here or not, I'm not that concerned about. But the reality is we need one of those two players -- and hopefully both of them -- but we need one of those two players to take a step or they're going to be a contributing factor on our team in the near future."

It's rare to see a player make the jump from the WHL to the NHL, but Rattie, a Calgary, Alberta native, is determined to defy the odds. However, he does have a realistic vision.

"The NHL is a completely different game," Rattie said. "I've had one training camp under my belt and I kind of have a taste, but I'm really looking forward to coming here in September and proving that my scoring touch can translate to the NHL game.

"Realistically, I think it's going to be a learning curve for me and I understand that. Right from Day 1, I'm going to try and make the St. Louis Blues and if I don't, I'm completely fine with going to Chicago. It's going to be a good organization down there, good coaches. A learning curve, but the ultimate goal is to be a St. Louis Blue."

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