Pro game next for one of Winterhawks' all-time top threats

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Ty Rattie almost never was a Portland Winterhawk. But coach/GM Mike Johnston and team President Doug Piper talked him into coming to the Western Hockey League team.Before he departed the organization — assuming he plays in the pros with the St. Louis Blues or their minor-league affiliate next year — Ty Rattie admitted that tears come pretty easily when thinking about his time playing for the Portland Winterhawks and living in the Rose City.

“I’m proud to be a part of all this,” said Rattie, shortly after the Winterhawks’ record-setting season ended in the Memorial Cup finale against Halifax. “I can’t say enough good things about this place.

“I’m going to come back every summer. I love it. If I had any advice for young guys, I’d say come to Portland. You’re going to get to develop into a good player.”

It’s a good thing Rattie heeded his own advice.

The Western Hockey League’s all-time leader in playoff goals scored — a nice round, sparkling 50 — at one time considered not playing for Portland.

Drafted second overall in the 2008 WHL bantam draft, Rattie watched from afar as the organization crumbled on and off the ice under its ownership at the time. It was the worst team in the league. But Bill Gallacher bought the team in late 2008 and put Mike Johnston and Travis Green in charge of hockey operations, with Doug Piper hired to run the front office.

Rattie, from Airdrie, Alberta, had to be persuaded to sign with the Winterhawks rather than

go another route in his hockey career.

“I wasn’t going to come,” he says. “I was 15. Mike Johnston called me. Doug Piper called me. They said, ‘Stick with us, it’s going to be good.’ ”

Rattie bought the sales pitch.

“Lucky for me,” he says.

He saw action in 10 games (and scored a goal) during his 15-year-old season, as the Hawks started to rebuild.

He arrived to be a full-time Hawk the next season, and the rest was history. The Winterhawks surged to the WHL playoffs and won a series against Spokane, with Rattie scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 7. He tallied 17 goals and 20 assists in his rookie season, numbers that would seemingly take him a month to tally during any of the next three seasons: 28 goals-51 assists-79 points in 2010-2011, 57-64-121 points in 2011-12 and 48-62-110 in 2012-13. He helped the Winterhawks capture three WHL Western Conference titles and finally the league championship last season.

Rattie was even better in the playoffs, finishing with 50 goals and 45 assists for 95 points in 76 career games, third all-time among WHL players, behind Dale Derkatch of Regina (103, 1982-85) and Greg Hawgood of Kamloops (100, 1983-86). But, in the one area that counted most, Rattie reigns above all others — the 50 goals.

For good measure, on junior hockey’s grandest stage, Rattie scored six goals and had six assists in the Memorial Cup, outdone only by Nathan MacKinnon of champion Halifax (7-6-13).

Rattie’s all-time regular-season numbers — 151-197-348 in 269 games — are near the top of Portland’s lists, but fall short of the leaders. Todd Robinson had 145 goals and 325 assists for a whopping 470 points, and Troy Mick had 204-262-466.

Ken Hodge, the former part-owner, general manager and coach, isn’t ready to put Rattie, 19, atop the prestigious list of all-time great Hawks. After all, dozens of Winterhawks have enjoyed sensational junior careers and standout NHL careers. Watch the Stanley Cup finals and you’ll see two of them — Chicago’s Marian Hossa and Boston’s Andrew Ference.

“He’s an excellent player,” Hodge says of Rattie. “He had a great junior career. Sometimes junior careers are different from pro careers. You have to be careful in how you judge them. His numbers are great, and he would be one of the top juniors to play in Portland, as a goal-scorer especially.”

Johnston, the team’s general manager and coach, called Rattie’s goal-scoring ability “a special knack. He doesn’t have the hardest shot, and he’s not the strongest guy. He has great awareness around the net.”

Hodge says Rattie has been underrated in one aspect — “he’s one of the better playmakers the Winterhawks have had,” he says. He’s not just a goal-scorer. Johnston agrees. “He has great vision off the puck. He makes some very good plays,” Johnston says.

Being 6 feet, 175 pounds, Rattie has been working on improving his defense — “he wasn’t cheating on defense to score goals,” Hodge says. “He was dedicated to both sides of the red line.” Rattie has become a more well-rounded player, which he’ll need to be to get ice time in the pros. And, he still needs to get stronger.

Johnston calls him ready to play pro. Rattie says he feels ready, especially after talking with former Hawks and current pros Riley Boychuk and Ryan Johansen.

“They say the only difference is the size of the guys,” Rattie says. “Same speed, just stronger guys. My main focus during the summer is to put on some weight, get stronger, and hopefully I can hold my own next year.”

He has plenty of memories of his junior career.

“Everything we’ve went through this year, to be WHL champions and be one of the top two teams in the whole (Canadian Hockey League), it’s an unbelievable thing,” he says.

Says linemate Nicolas Petan: “You can’t say enough about him. Unbelievable player and person. Great attitude. Just someone you can look up to.”

Hodge feels fortunate that the Hawks drafted Rattie with the No. 2 overall bantam pick in 2008. The No. 1 player was pretty good — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer — but Rattie ended up playing in Portland during his junior prime. Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 NHL pick in 2011, went to the Edmonton Oilers as an 18-year-old in 2011-12.

“We might have lucked out on that one,” Hodge says. “Rattie is everything we thought he’d be. He loves the game. He loves to score goals.”

Johnston can only smile, because the Rattie family took the leap of faith in 2008 and sent their boy to Portland.

During the Memorial Cup, Johnston and Rattie’s parents talked about the young man’s career.

“Look at how fortunate it has been for everybody,” Johnston says.

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