19. Ridly Greig (Reader Rank: 18, Last Year: NR)
A “sparkplug”. A “gritty” forward. An “energy guy”.
These words can inspire confidence for a certain type of person, but it’s not exactly what you want to hear first about a player drafted with a first-round pick in a draft pegged as one of the deepest in recent memory.
“A team-leading, above a point-per-game forward in the WHL despite being one of the draft’s youngest players while playing against top competition” — that’s something that’s also true about Lethbridge’s Ridly Greig. His versatility, style-of-play, and foundational skill helped make him the eighth overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft to the Brandon Wheat Kings, and an invitee to Team Canada’s World Juniors selection camp.
Greig has been a top point producer among his age group since the U15 level, where he starred on a strong Lethbridge Golden Hawks team in the AMBHL and went toe-to-toe with high-scoring Ozzy Wiesblatt and Carter Savoie for the league-lead. If there was a worry that Greig was too dependent on his deep team, he eased those concerns a year later, when he led the AAA U18 Lethbridge Hurricanes in scoring by 19 points while finishing second in the AMHL in points-per-game, just behind Blues first-round pick Jake Neighbours (26th overall) and Ducks first-round pick (2019, 29th overall) Brayden Tracey.
It’s this latter experience that would become the norm for his career thus far in Brandon, where he joined a team on the decline after being named WHL Champions in 2015-16, and was coming off of a disastrous first-round loss the year before. In his rookie year, Greig played middle-six minutes on a middling Wheat Kings squad that missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Greig’s statistical performance held up among his peers. As compared to other forwards in their pre-draft (Draft-1) season, Greig finished sixth in primary points-per-game (total and at even-strength) behind Connor Zary, Seth Jarvis, Connor McClennon, and Justin Sourdif, but ahead of the aforementioned Neighbours and Wiesblatt. Unlike McClennon, Greig also stayed above water on a weak team when looking at goals-for percentage (GF%) — where he was above 50%.
That brings us to this past season, where Greig played top minutes for a Wheat Kings squad that looked poised to make the playoffs — before they were cancelled — and was able to add more offence to his game. Statistically, Greig finished sixth among draft-eligible skaters with a 1.07 points-per-game, hit around that same mark when looking at primary points (all situations and even-strength), and continued to positively impact goals relative to his teammates when he was on the ice. That his point totals hold up at even-strength is important, because relative to last season, Greig added a team-high 26 points this season on the powerplay — 19 of them either a goal or a primary assist — pointing to his ability to be an effective facilitator of the puck if given that extra time and space.
How does he do it?
Ridly Grieg starts every shift with the express purpose of becoming Everyone Else’s Problem— Rhys Jessop (@Thats_Offside) October 7, 2020
Greig possesses elite physicality despite his 5-foot-11 frame. We’re talking physicality from the Brady Tkachuk school of physicality, fuelled by a near infinite energy that he looks to utilize in all three zones. He forechecks hard, isn’t afraid to be in (or start) scrums, loves to win board battles — all of the little things that Brady’s brought to Ottawa and often drags his teammates into it as well. Scouting reports named that he’s generally intelligent defensively, while hounding the puck on the forecheck and eventually parking himself in front of the net. His go-to offensive strategy is to utilizing his superior puck handling ability to attack outside lanes and get a shot off himself or send a hook pass over to connect with teammates through defenders.
Internationally, Greig’s suited up as a centre at the U17s and Hlinka Gretzky for Team Canada as an energy-line pivot — another trait that reflects his two-way game and the versatility that scouts and coaches love.
Let’s talk about the issues that Greig will have to work on to reach his potential as a first-round pick. For one, he’ll have to work on being more intelligent with his pest-like behaviour. He can take silly penalties (83 PIM last season) and was suspended twice in the 2019-20 season for crossing the line. That kind of behaviour won’t fly, even as a bottom-six forward on a NHL team.
Greig had an expected range of 23 to 71 by Colin’s measure, and the main reason why that varied so much is because of how people rated Greig’s skating ability. He’s got clear mechanical issues, with messy stride extension, poor recovery, and ultimately leading to at best, NHL-average speed. When you want to play a ‘relentless’, in-your-face style of game, average skating can limit your ability to hound the puck and instead, leave you caught chasing, giving up a better position defensively, and putting in a lot of effort for little result.
I don’t want to belabour points that have already been made, so if you have access to EliteProspects Premium, I highly recommend this breakdown of Grieg’s game by Mitch Brown. If not, this pre-draft profile from Justin Blades over at Habs Eyes on the Prize is a great companion piece, and goes into more detail on some of the issues that arise with a player like Greig who has his specific limitations.
Here’s what I’ll say: Ridly Greig won’t be the first Brandon Wheat Kings skater that is able to improve their skating to enough of a level to be an impactful NHL forward. Mark Stone is an elite player and possesses something Greig could learn — patience when applying effort — and because of his late birthday and the relative depth of the Senators’ system, I think Ottawa can afford Greig the time to work out these warts. If Greig does, they’ll have an impactful middle-six player on their hands in a couple years that they can add to a roster that’s likely gearing up for contention. If not, the Greig pick will always be looked at as a missed opportunity.
This season, Greig’s own developmental trajectory has been personally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Greig tested positive for the virus in early November, and has been kept out of entering Team Canada’s bubble for the World Juniors. The good news is that he reports that he’s at 100% now, and there’s hope that he’ll be able to feature in some action if/when camp resumes. Son of Flyers amateur scout Mark Greig, Ridly has connections and was one of the first draft-eligible players to sign overseas with his junior season in limbo. It remains to be seen whether he’ll continue with Karlskrona HK in Sweden’s third division in 2021, but we’ll keep our eye on that for you.