The Philadelphia Flyers drafted the offensively-gifted defenseman, Ronnie Attard, in the third round of 2019, understanding the risk surrounding their selection. Though his USHL success made him appealing, clear issues with his game remained.
Now, two years into his Western Michigan tenure, Attard’s production supports Philadelphia’s decision to bring him aboard. Recognized as the NCHC’s best offensive defenseman, he posted eight goals and 14 assists in 25 games. His 22 points ranked third amongst NCAA blueliners this season.
Relying solely on the numbers, one might go as far as labeling Chuck Fletcher’s 2019 third-round selection a “home run.” However, if you dig a little deeper, reasons to remain skeptical still exist.
Yes, Ronnie Attard registered eight goals for the Broncos this season. Yes, that total was good enough for second-most among NCAA defensemen. Still, questions remain surrounding sustainability.
Taking the time soak up all of Attard’s goals, the term “one-trick pony” comes to mind. It’s apparent his comfort zone revolves around obtaining the opportunity for set shots. Whether at the point or close to the net, Attard scores off of one-timers. If it isn’t a one-timer, it is still a shot where he can position himself and release it with space.
One cannot simply ignore the effectiveness of Attard’s shot. He possesses a cannon that reaches the goal with accuracy when given the space to do so. However, issues arise when you consider that success translating to the professional ranks. Attard’s approach is predictable and preventable with the proper talent and preparation. If he cannot improve his skating and puck skills, NHL opponents will easily remove Attard as an offensive weapon.
A majority of Attard’s assistance occurs the same way he scores goals, shots from the point. In most cases, the shot-happy Attard receives an assist due to a deflected or rebounded shot. On the rare chance it’s registered from a pass, it is of the secondary/set-up variety. Although his goal-scoring is attributed to an effective shot, attributing assists to any skill of Attard’s proves to be a challenge.
The reason is he is so one-dimensional offensively is because of his skating and puck-handling limitations. His deficiencies in those areas prevent any varying attack. In reality, Attard is a liability when handling the puck, causing far too many turnovers. Although he can improve, I personally struggle viewing it as fixable to the point where he can thrive in the NHL.
To claim Ronnie Attard struggles at the defensive aspects of the game remains an understatement. He is easily beat by opponents on the rush and constantly caught out of position. Attard is a consistent liability in his own zone, proving his ceiling lies in being a one-dimensional offensive-defenseman.
Attard’s inability to hold his own defensively at the collegiate level does not bode well for his future as a pro. Offensively explosive players will have a field day every time he is on the ice. Now, there is always the option of putting Attard in situations advantageous to his skill set. Simultaneously, sheltering a player is not ideal for any team and will certainly decrease his organizational value.
The truth is, the last thing the Philadelphia Flyers need is another defensively deficient blueliner. Even if Attard can turn a corner and develop into a solid professional, he does not assist the Flyers where they need the most help.
In truth, Ronnie Attard lacks many of the skills necessary to become a consistent contributor at the NHL level. Even for teams that can afford strictly offensive-minded defensemen, he lacks versatility in the offensive zone, making him predictable at higher levels of play.
Still, Philadelphia may be able to take advantage of Attard’s surface-level success this season. Another franchise might see some attraction to his offensive accolades. If that’s the case, the Flyers need to take advantage. With the focus on improving the roster, Philadelphia could use Attard’s likely short-lived high-stock as an overvalued trade chip.
Knocking on the NCHC’s top offensive defenseman of 2020-21 might seem foolish. However, so much goes into a prospect translating into a successful NHL talent. Even with an impressive stat sheet, Ronnie Attard is missing far too much in other areas of the game for me to change my opinion of him and his future.
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