By Aaron Vickers – CalgaryFlames.com
CALGARY, AB — Admittedly, Calgary Flames goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet hadn’t seen stopper David Rittich up close.
Understandably, he was excited with the opportunity to do so at Flames development camp earlier in the month.
And he liked what he saw.
“You’re always nervous when you’re going off watching a guy on video,” Sigalet started. “Some of our scouts saw him live. My set of eyes were through about 10 games.”
“But he came over and his work ethic was great. His English … we still need to work on his English. It helps having a few Czech guys in our system. The skill set he has … he’s a very athletic guy.
“I think there’s some adjustment with the smaller ice. He’ll keep adjusting to that through camp and hopefully he’s ready for the season.”
Rittich signed a one-year, two-way contract with Calgary in June.
He is set to come over to North America after playing the past two seasons with BK Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Extraliga. Rittich played 48 games for BK Mlada Boleslav in 2015-16, where he had a record of 26-22-0 with a 2.53 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
He opened the 2014-15 season with BK Mlada Boleslav and managed a 3.15 GAA and .892 save percentage in 23 games, and was loaned to HC Dukla Jihlava, where he sported a 1.52 GAA and .946 save percentage in seven regular season games, and a 2.41 GAA and .924 save percentage in six playoff appearances.
The 23-year-old was never drafted into the NHL.
“Once our guys identified and spend some time with him, we had (goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet) really dig in, watch a lot of video on him, spend some time with him, and we made a decision to move forward,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said at the time of the signing.
“We’re not giving up anything. At the same token, you always want to do your homework and due diligence. He’s a big guy who has some athletic ability and we’ll see where it goes.
“The way the contract is structured to us is it’s a low-risk move where we feel there’s some upside. Where it goes from there, we’ll wait and see and see how David develops.”
The 6-foot-4, 202-pound keeper is set to start with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League as Rittich makes his adjustment to North America, both on and off the ice.
He’ll work with Sigalet, and Stockton goalie coach Colin Zulianello, in those adjustments.
And there’s a solid base to start with.
At least, based on Sigalet’s first up-close look.
“I tell people he reminds me a little bit of (Andrei) Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay with his skill set,” he said. “He’s a very powerful guy, quick down low, good legs.”