For the Ottawa Senators, the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft has already yielded two outstanding young NHL players.
In his third season, centre Tim Stutzle has been one of the club’s most valuable players, while defenceman Jake Sanderson has probably emerged now as the club’s top defenceman.
On Wednesday night, the Sens are hoping to put a third player from that draft on the road to stardom. Centre Ridly Greig has been called up from the minors to make his NHL debut against the Islanders.
While Stutzle and Sanderson were both top 5 selections, Greig was a little less of a sure thing, going 28th overall. Greig was a fine, feisty, point per game player in Brandon, putting up 60 points in 56 games. But after being drafted, Greig really hit his stride, putting up 95 points in 60 games. Trouble is, that was over two seasons, not one.
The injury bug has stung Greig on a number of occasions in junior hockey, including back in August when he helped Canada win a gold medal at the World Juniors. Greig had 6 points in 5 games before suffering a separated shoulder in the quarterfinals.
But he was doing things like this at the tournament.
Greig has all the skill and speed to thrive in the NHL. He also doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas of the ice and plays with a nasty, in-your-face edge that coaches love. There’s just one question. Can a player who tries to play like that stay healthy in the NHL at 163 pounds? The league is filled with excellent smaller players but when it comes to the physical stuff, they tend to mind their own business.
But Greig is being set up for success right out of the gate, making his NHL debut with wingers Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat. With linemates like that, not only does Greig have a chance to be productive right away, he’ll likely get some pointers on how to stay in one piece in the show. Giroux entered the league in 2008 with Greig’s exact body type and DeBrincat is one of the smallest players in the entire league. Both of them have been all-stars while spending very little time on the injury list.
Greig’s addition is the biggest part of a major shuffle to Ottawa’s top three forward lines. After being healthy scratched for breaking a team rule last week, there’s no hard feelings toward Mathieu Joseph. He’ll now play with Stutzle and Brady Tkachuk, while Shane Pinto will centre what appears to be the third line with Drake Batherson and Derick Brassard.
With Josh Norris set for season-ending shoulder surgery, the NHL door is wide open for Greig. He’ll probably be given several games to show what he can do and then the coaching staff can decide A) if he’s truly NHL-ready and B) if he’s a better top-six centre option than Pinto. Pinto was the NHL rookie of the month for October but has cooled off mightily since being added to Ottawa’s top six, filling in when Norris was hurt the first time.
Greig is actually the fifth player from the 2020 NHL Draft to suit up for the Sens. Egor Sokolov has played in eight games and Cole Reinhardt has played in one.
But when it comes to that amazing first round, the Senators are hoping good things happen in threes.
By Steve Warne