At long last, the final of the Ottawa Senators’ three first round picks from the 2020 draft is set to make his NHL regular season debut tonight against the New York Islanders. If you had forgotten that Ridly Greig was a first round pick, you’re forgiven: Tim Stützle and Jake Sanderson were drafted to so much hype, and have arrived in the NHL to such immediate success, that it’s easy to forget that, yes, the Sens made a third first round pick in that franchise-altering draft.
It’s been a bit of journey from there to here for Greig, but with Josh Norris officially done for the season, the opportunity has arrived. In fact, with 36 games remaining, and no obvious other alternatives for the role of second line centre after Shane Pinto’s disappointing performance thus far, Greig has a chance to not only cut his teeth in the league but to secure his immediate future with the franchise. DJ Smith had the youngster lining up alongside Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat in practice on Tuesday — not too bad for a true rookie.
So, what can we expect from Greig?
In this year’s edition of the Sens’ Top 25 Under 25, Greig came in at #10; of the players ranked ahead of him, only Jake Sanderson and Shane Pinto were not already firmly established NHLers. Greig is, by a good margin, the Sens’ best prospect outside of the NHL. Here’s our own intrepid Owen from that same T25U25 article:
Looking back on the past year, Greig has fulfilled all of our expectations in terms of maintaining his offensive output and developing into the type of forward that will fit perfectly into Ottawa’s second or third line in the coming years. Few players outside of Brady Tkachuk exemplify Ottawa’s ideal brand of hockey the way Greig does.
Virtually every scouting report of Greig touches on the same points: he’s got a high motor, he battles extremely hard at both ends of the ice, he’s skilled if not a wizard with the puck, and he plays with a physical edge that has sometimes veered away from useful to harmful. In his recent assessment of the Sens’ system, Scott Wheeler had this to say about Greig in ranking him as Ottawa’s #1 prospect :
He’ll still take the odd bad penalty, but Greig plays with fire, wins battles above his weight class, gets up and under sticks to take back pucks, will sacrifice the body the block a shot, and just gives you a bit of everything as an energizing forechecker who can also find space in and out of coverage with and without the puck. He’s fearless, he takes pucks to dirty areas, he’s a heart and soul guy, he’s always around it, he skates well, he’s physical, he’s feisty, and he’s going to endear himself to fans for his style of play.
Greig is a driven, up-tempo forward of equal parts skill and work ethic who can play centre and the wing. He’s defined by his tenaciousness, but he can make plays in traffic, his wrister is accurate (though I wouldn’t say it’s threatening from long range), he’s willing to attack and try things, and he almost never looks to cheat or play selfishly within that game. He’s also an August birthday, which gives him continued runway to add elements offensively. He’s a gamer.
All this to say that there’s a lot to like in Greig’s game. Not everyone can score goals like this in the NHL (even if it was only the preseason):
There are two things that I will be looking for tonight. The first is whether he is able to make the necessary reads and plays at NHL speed. The biggest issue, to my eyes anyways, facing Pinto during his struggles on the second line was the pace of the game; right now he simply isn’t able to execute at the pace that is required to be an effective contributor in an NHL team’s top six. Frankly, I’d be kind of shocked if Greig is able to smoothly transition right away but all that I need to see are some flashes at first. Show me you can do it sometimes, if not all the time, and I can be sold on the notion that the consistency will come in course.
The second thing is whether Greig will feel pressure to be extra physical and takes himself out of the game needlessly chasing hits or just generally being a shithead. In his media availability since the call-up, Greig has spoken about wanting to play with an edge but also recognizing that there is a line that he will have to walk. No one’s going to complain if he finishes his first few checks with particular zeal, it will be, after all, his first game in the Show. But undisciplined play has a way of earning you time riding the pine, so here’s to hoping Greig can strike that balance.
All in all, Greig’s debut doesn’t carry with it quite the anticipation of say Stützle or Sanderson, but there’s lots of reasons for Sens fans to be excited to see how he fares this evening. Greig has done nothing but excel since he was drafted and if Ottawa is going to address the glaring lack of forward depth, he will likely have to be part of that solution. We’ll get our first chance to evaluate that possibility tonight.