Richard; Flying Under The Radar at High Speed

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

When firmly looking at the prospects within the Nashville Predators organization the forward group has edged more towards an NHL standing. They have all come in waves. A wave with Filip Forsberg and Calle Järnkrok. A secondary wave featuring Austin Watson, Colton Sissons, Miikka Salomäki, and Viktor Arvidsson. And, the most recent wave, has seen the likes of Kevin Fiala, Pontus Åberg, and Frédérick Gaudreau elevate into that NHL opportunity. We’ve discussed a guy named Vladislav Kamenev here who is most likely the next key figure in the next wave to reach Nashville from Milwaukee. But who would join him? He might not be on the radar entirely yet but that could change soon enough. Anthony Richard‘s wheels could put him in Nashville in due time.

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Richard was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft. In his draft class he was picked alongside fellow teammates with the Milwaukee Admirals this season: Yakov Trenin, Alex Carrier, and Tyler Moy. Of the forwards in that class for the Predators, which also includes Thomas Novak, there is only really one forward with an NHL game-breaking quality out of the lot: Richard and his speed. In a very small sample size it is already abundantly clear that Richard’s speed is lethal and that his skating ability can make him extremely dangerous for any team to match up against. Mike Ribeiro, who center a line in Milwaukee last season with Richard as well as Gaudreau, had the following to say of Richard’s ability after a month run with the team, “[Richard] is a really fast player with a lot of skills. He has a good shot. He skates well – can pass the puck. He works hard, too.” Ribeiro would continue centering Richard until the end of the season and would keep praising the first-year pro for his abilities, “[Richard] is a guy with a lot of skills. Speed. But, not just the speed, a lot of guys with speed their hands can’t follow their feet. I think he is going to be a really dangerous player coming up. Just his speed puts defenses in awkward positions. He has a great shot. I was watching in practice, [Gaudreau] is the same, their high skill level. Good hands. Good skaters. Good shots. Good passers. Everything you need.”

For someone who has been around the pro game as much as Ribeiro has his comments and appreciation for his linemates stood out – especially for Richard. It wasn’t the easiest of starts for Richard for his 2016-17 season. He struggled to find a role and also was going through the motions of consistency. His greatest asset, his speed, could sometimes be his greatest detractor in a game by way of doing far too much, too fast – rather than make the smart and safe plays that could keep pucks deep and his team pressing down in attack. It eventually had him sent to the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones. And that was a moment that was difficult to handle for a variety of reasons.

(Photo Credit: Tony Bailey)

There is a certain stigma with the ECHL that it is a bad league to play in or that it puts a stamp on players that they’re miles from where they should be. It isn’t true, but it is a natural and unfortunate thought that tends to come up with those early years of a professional playing career that the end goal of playing in the NHL just became that much further of a climb up the ladder. When Richard was first assigned to the ECHL it was mid-November, he had played 10 games with the Admirals, and hadn’t scored a point of offense yet. When considering you go from tearing up the major junior hockey scene and being an offensive threat every game and then going to absolutely nothing followed by a demotion – you can understand the mentally deflating feelings that can come with those beginning their pro careers and reaching the ECHL – but it has less to do with the ECHL and more to do with finding consistency in their form. That is where the ECHL can offer far more playing time to hit stride and get momentum back in the right direction. And, from Day 1 with the Cyclones, Richard made the right impact by scoring his first pro goal and assist in his ECHL debut.

(Photo Credit: Tony Bailey)

Richard would go on to play a little further with the Cyclones through to mid-December but he would literally hit a wall in his fourth game with the team. On 12/16/17, Richard lost an edge near the end boards while racing in on the forecheck. His speed was great. And, when the skate went out from under him, it sent him barreling into the boards back first causing a whiplash impact to his head. Richard had suffered a concussion. It would sideline him for nearly a month’s time. In that time Richard was able to catch his breath and allow himself to let go a little bit before coming right back into the AHL with the Admirals – where he would continue on for the rest of his 2016-17 season.

When Richard did comeback to the Admirals for the 2017 side of the calendar he took over a role lost on the team when Harry Zolnierczyk was recalled for good by the Predators. Richard became a spark plug with his speed and constant work rate on the ice. In his second game back from injury he scored his first AHL point and the next night would record his first AHL goal. On the 2016 side of things? Richard produced 0 points in 14 games in the AHL while contributing 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist) in 4 games in the ECHL. On the 2017 side he played only in the AHL and scored 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists) in 41 games. That would make for a 0.39 points per game clip which is 0.01 better than fellow first-year pro last season Justin Kirkland.

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

As bad as his injury was that break from playing, getting away briefly after being stuck in place to start the season, may have helped him to take the necessary steps to calm down. Once a veteran with as much NHL experience such as Ribeiro arrived to the Admirals and Richard and Gaudreau were setup on the same line – everything seemed to take off. To be able to learn the game up close in-game situations such as that with a player like Ribeiro helped Richard as a first-year pro. Looking off the ice, Richard having a fellow Québécois pal in Gaudreau, who experienced a similar first pro season experience with being between the AHL and ECHL, also allowed him to better understand the overall developmental process and see that the hard work pays off. There was a ton of experience crammed into full seventh month span of a hockey season. Richard was a teenager when the season started. How he finished the season was a very positive sign for the years to come. In his first pro playing season he faced incredible adversity on and off the ice and learned how to best handle it and move forward. Those are lessons that set a phenomenal building block for Richard who will turn 21-years old in late-December. He has a lot of attributes that are very comparable to Kevin Fiala but the next steps he needs to take next are consistency in approach while still being explosive and playing the game smart. Last season, as a rookie, he was reactive. Next season he needs to be proactive.

The sophomore class that will be coming back to Milwaukee this Fall has really strong character with players that can get up to Nashville in the 2017-18 season under the right circumstances. On the defensive side of the puck things are well looked after but Carrier is a good bet to see playing time while Jack Dougherty could get in the mix this season. Depending on how the forwards shake out in Nashville and in Milwaukee the variable to see Richard this season shouldn’t be blown aside. He has all the tools that can make him fit into the high energy, speed, and skill game that the Predators are becoming known for. He just needs all the pieces to click. And he will be golden.

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