Name: Ridly Greig
Team: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Stats: 56 games played, 26 goals, 34 assists, 60 points, 83 PIMs,+11 plus/minus rating
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 14th (North American skaters)
Comparable NHL player: Nazem Kadri
When Kirby Dach was selected 3rd overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, a lot of people in the independent scouting community were taken by surprise.
Sure, Dach was obviously a talented player in his draft year. He had that blend of size, mobility and puck skill that is so, so, so hard to find. However, he was also maddeningly inconsistent. Some nights he looked absolutely phenomenal, while on others he looked like someone barely worth using a draft pick on. And as the season went along, his bad games seemed to outnumber his good ones.
But no matter how many bad games of his that I watched, I couldn’t shake the memory of one of the good ones, which I had watched in-person in October — and boy, was that game something else. Out of all the games I scouted that season, that particular one from Dach was the single best performance that I saw — better than any single performance I watched out of Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, the players who went 1st and 2nd overall respectively in 2019. He dominated the ice that one particular night in a way that was truly special.
Fast forward one year later and the Blackhawks, who are getting a lot of the good Dach and less of the bad Dach, are looking pretty darn smart about their draft decision.
While he’s not nearly on the same level talent-wise, the Jekyll and Hyde routine that I saw out of Dach that season is similar to the one I saw this past season out of Brandon Wheat Kings center Ridly Greig.
When he is playing at his best, there is a real abundance of things to like about Ridly, the son of former NHLer Mark Greig. In fact, there are few forwards in this draft class who can match up with him in terms of overall versatility.
Greig has an advanced hockey sense for his age, which makes him capable of being an influential part of the play in every situation and on any given shift. He can be lethal as both a shooter and a playmaker, and he can use high-end skating and puck-handling abilities to create dangerous offensive chances for himself or his teammates. There’s also a certain sly craftiness to his game that appears from time to time, where he’ll pull a card from his sleeve that his opponents aren’t expecting.
2020 #NHLDraft prospect Ridly Greig (BDN) is an interesting player to say the least. Late birthday combined with a small body leaves him tons of room to grow. He’s a favourite of @BBMHockey. Check out this sweet pass: pic.twitter.com/CbeP3ipuzR— Mitchell Adamson (@Mitche11Adamson) May 3, 2020
While his scoring totals aren’t overly special, the Wheat Kings didn’t have a lot of firepower this year and deployed a fairly tight, structured, defensive system, as is pretty customary for the WHL. When Brandon’s top powerplay unit came over the boards, Greig was usually the centerpiece of it, as evidenced by his team-high 26 points on the man-advantage. With 60 points overall in 56 games, he was the only player on the team to average more than a point-per-game.
He can be an effective player off the puck as well, and it goes beyond his hockey sense. When he’s engaged he can be really engaged: forechecking hard, throwing hits, getting his hands dirty in board battles, and just all-around playing with a chip on his shoulder. In addition to his skills he can also play a rough-and-tumble style of hockey, despite him being on the short and light side of things at the moment. There’s a very noticeable pest-like quality to him as well, as he’ll happily chirp his opponents and get nasty with his stick during and after whistles. He’s the type of guy who can really get under the skin of the other team, and there can be major value in that.
A natural center, Greig played the role of Canada’s checking-line pivot at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and excelled in the role, picking up three points in five games while also leaving his mark physically. It was something that surely didn’t go unnoticed by NHL scouts, as teams always love having players that can play in either a Top 6 or Bottom 6 role. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Greig first crack the NHL as a checker while he worked his way up into a scoring role over time, before becoming a well-rounded and dependable two-way forward.
For all the good things about Greig’s game, however, there are two big issues that hurt his draft stock and will need to be addressed as he moves up to the professional levels of hockey.
The first is that his effort level is wildly, frustratingly consistent. Game by game, period by period, shift by shift — you never quite know what version of Greig you’re going to get. I watched games of him from this past season where he looked outstanding in the first period, but then basically stopped playing in the other two. And when he stops trying, the results can get ugly: he’ll stop moving his feet, he’ll look disinterested in his assignments, and he’ll just become a non-factor in the play completely. It’s the type of stuff that can drive an NHL coach crazy and get a player stapled to the bench, relegated to the press box or reassigned to the AHL.
The other big thing is his discipline. Being a physical player and a pest is fine and dandy, but it’s a thin line to walk, and he has problems crossing it. He’s no stranger to getting whistled for inexcusable penalties, and he was suspended twice in the 2019-20 season for crossing that line with his physical play.
There’s a lot of discrepancy about where Greig has been ranked to this point, from as high as 24th by Bob McKenzie of TSN, to as low as 83rd by Elite Prospects. For my money, I expect Greig to go on the higher side of spectrum, similar to how Ty Dellandrea went higher than consensus in 2018. Despite the warts, there’s just too much to like about what Greig offers.
Like with the Blackhawks and Dach, if you can develop up the good with Greig and develop out the bad, then you could end up with a pretty special player on your hands when it’s all said and done.