A little less than two weeks ago, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher took to the podium inside of Rogers Arena in Vancouver to announce the 72nd-overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. At that point, the Flyers had already drafted both a defenseman and a forward. In the first round, they went with defenseman Cam York with the 14th-overall pick. In the second round, they decided to go with a young forward in Bobby Brink with the 34th-overall pick. Obviously, the later the draft gets, the more of a toss-up it becomes. So would Chuck Fletcher take a forward in back to back rounds? Or would he decide to take another defenseman? Chuck Fletcher went with Choice B. The Flyers drafted defenseman Ronnie Attard of the Tri-City Storm with the 72nd-overall pick.
” Hearing your name called is something you dream of since you were a little kid so when it actually happened it was just a surreal feeling. I had my family, my two older sisters, both my parents sitting next to me. It was just awesome. It was a great feeling giving them hugs after hearing my name get called“, said Attard when talking about the emotions that were swirling through his head when he heard his name called.
His personality tells you just what kind of guy he is. A passionate, determined hockey player who strives to get better every day. In other words, the grind never stops for him.
The 6’3″, 207-pound defenseman hails from White Lake Township, Michigan. Over the past three seasons, Attard has played for Tri-City Storm of the USHL. In his first season with the team, he was more of a stay at home defenseman, meaning he didn’t really jump up in the play much offensively. In 50 games played, Attard put up eight goals, and seven assists for a grand total of 15 points. One thing that did stand out was how much time he spent in the box. He finished the year with a whopping 126 penalty minutes.
This past year though was a whole different story. In 48 games played, Attard put up ridiculous numbers offensively, potting 30 goals while adding on 34 helpers for 64 points. Talk about a big jump. In fact, Attard was the only defenseman in the USHL to break 20 goals. He also led the league in plus/minus at +47. In other words, good things happened when Attard was on the ice. At the end of the year, he took home both Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year Awards. He will take his talents to Western Michigan for the 2019-2020 season where he will begin his NCAA career.
Looking back to the 2017-2018 season, the term “two-way defenseman” wasn’t even in Attard’s vocabulary. He was only known for his defense. That’s no longer the case. He’s very much a two-way defenseman. All you really have to do is look at the numbers. What’s crazy though is that Attard didn’t really focus on the offensive side of the game till this past season. Looks like he made the adjustment pretty darn fast.
“Yeah, I’m more of a two-way defenseman but growing up I never really had an offensive mindset. I was more of just a defensive guy, but this last year I had some confidence in the league I was in and started scoring some goals so I consider myself a two-way defenseman“.
Attard has his strengths and weakness just like anyone else. However, he’s a very hit or miss player regarding the different aspects of the game.
First off, the strengths. Attard is the kind of guy who takes advantage of his big body frame. As mentioned earlier, he’s 6’3, 207lbs. He makes for a very strong physical presence and is someone who loves to throw his body around on the ice. Blocking shots and breaking up passes is another one of his strengths. Once again, his body frame plays a big part in this.
On the offensive side of things, Attard’s heavy slap shot and ability to jump up on the play is what jumps out the most at people. Considering his first two years with Tri-City were very defensive-minded, it’s pretty impressive how quickly he adapted to the offensive side of the game. His accuracy is also something a lot of folks tend to take away from his game. His ability to find the back of the net with such little wiggle room is quite impressive.
Finally, a strength that can sometimes go unnoticed when talking about Attard is his energy level and attitude. You can almost guarantee Ronnie Attard will have a big smile across his face almost every time. For him personally, he believes that’s his biggest strength.
“I would say my biggest asset is just the energy I bring whether it’s a stretch that we’re doing in there, shooting pucks, or playing ball hockey“.
With strengths also come weaknesses. While Attard is very good at throwing his body around, he often has trouble staying disciplined leading to a lot of time spent in the box. One thing Attard will have to work on is playing physical hockey while at the same time staying disciplined. He can’t help the team if he’s in the box. His skating is another aspect of the game many people are concerned about. While it’s not something people should look to much into right now, it’s definitely something that will be looked at down the road. The NHL is a fast pace league and in order to have success, you have to be able to keep up.
The good thing is that Attard knows what he has to improve on and is ready to take on the challenge. In his mind, skating is his biggest weaknesses and the part of his game that needs the most work.
“I would say my skating. That’s something that we’re going to develop here this week and I look to improve over the summer at Western Michigan. I’ll be up there all summer skating. Just pivots, quick pivots, and being able to get in and out of tight spaces quick and closing on those faster forwards because the game is getting faster and faster“.
Overall, Attard will need to make some improvements over the next couple of years at Western Michigan before moving up. While his shot is lethal, his ability to make plays is subpar. Attard will also have to improve his skating in order to one day be an NHL defenseman. At this point in his career, he would be burned time and time again because of his lack of speed. However, if the big-bodied defenseman is indeed able to make adjustments, there’s no reason he can’t go on and be a successful defenseman for the Orange and Black at the NHL level.
Mandatory Credit: Hickling Images