Described as "an offensive dynamo and defensive pylon," defenseman Peter Ratchuk was a polarizing player in the 1996 NHL Draft.
There was no disputing Ratchuk's offensive ability from the blue line. He had a bomb of a shot and was an excellent skater He made crisp passers and quarterbacked the power play confidently.
Defensively his game needed work. Teams were either prepared to take a chance on his talent and work on his overall, or they would shy away. He wasn't very big and he did play very physically. And he got caught up ice far too often.
The Colorado Avalanche were prepared to work with the promising prospect, drafting him 26th overall in 1996. The only problem was Ratchuk was not.
After being drafted Ratchuk played the 1996-97 season at Bowling Green University, but dropped out of school to play as an overage junior player with Hull of the QMHJL in 1997-98.
"If you have a good chance of making it, junior was the way to go. It was more of a pro style team, it's more of a pro style atmosphere altogether with the travelling. I think I played about 85 games (including playoffs) there last season. That's the way you're going to get better, by playing all those games. So I just think that was the better opportunity and it helps for better development."
"The previous three years in college and prep school I played 30 game seasons. I went from playing on the weekends to playing three or four times every week and sometimes three in a row, a lot of times six games in eight nights and different things like that," he said.
Because of a collective bargaining agreement loophole, Ratchuk knew that he would be allowed to become an unrestricted free agent in just two years if he did not sign with the Avalanche. He used to loophole to choose what he had hoped would be a better fit.
In June of 1998 Ratchuk signed with the Florida Panthers.
"Florida has made it pretty clear that they're going to start young and they're going to totally rebuild and work for the future," he said. "Florida is going to go young and start from scratch pretty much so I think this is by far the best opportunity for me."
Unfortunately for Ratchuk and the Panthers, it just never worked out in Florida. He went from prospect to suspect over the next three years, playing just 32 games with the Panthers. He scored 1 goal and 1 assist. Unfortunately for Ratchuk his defensive game never developed and his confidence suffered.
Ratchuk would later sign with Pittsburgh and Buffalo, but would never play for the parent clubs. And by 2003 he was off to play several seasons in Europe.
Ratchuk would become a scout after hanging up his skates.