While the 2020 NHL Draft is set to be different than any NHL Draft in recent memory, it isn’t completely unfamiliar territory for Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ridly Greig. The 18-year-old product of Lethbridge, Alta. has a certain proximity to the NHL Draft process that most players don’t.
His father Mark is not only a veteran of 125 career NHL games and another 606 American League games, he just happens to be an NHL Scout with the Philadelphia Flyers, having recently completed his 12th year of duty with the Club. Back in the 1990 NHL Draft, he was a first-round selection (15th) of the Hartford Whalers.
“My dad knows a lot about the draft,” Greig said. “He has taught me a lot about it and how it’s done. I’m looking forward to [draft day]. It’s going to be a fun time for my family and my friends.”
According to Brandon Wheat Kings Head Coach Dave Lowry, that father-son relationship has been vital to Greig’s rise and has played a key role in the development of the player scouts are so eager to watch these days.
“His dad played, his dad works in hockey, so [Ridly] has grown up in and around the game,” Lowry said. “He has an understanding of the commitment that you have to make to be a player. Some guys just show up and think they’re going to play hockey and other guys want to become hockey players. It’s a year-round project now and the guys that are successful are the guys that commit to the daily grind to be an elite player.”
With an NHL Scout for a father, Greig not only has some unique insight into the NHL Draft, he’s already enjoyed some unique opportunities when it comes to the NHL Draft. Back in 2014, he joined his father at the NHL Draft and provided his services as a table runner for the Flyers, getting a close-up view of everything that goes on down on the draft floor. It’s about as personal as one can get without actually being the player hearing his name called.
“To hear all the names called and to see them walk up to the stage, it was a really cool experience,” Greig said. “My turn is next, so it should be lots of fun to hear my name called.”
It isn’t just the strong support, knowledge, and wisdom coming through father Mark that has helped prepare Greig for his big day. The 5-foot-11, 162-pound pivot lends a great deal of credit to Lowry, who completed his first campaign with the East Division squad in 2019-20.
Known throughout his 19-year NHL career as ‘Pie,’ Lowry brings an incredible blend of professional playing experience and elite coaching expertise, having served for seven years as a WHL head coach, plus another five seasons as an NHL assistant coach. Top that off with two tours on Canada’s coaching staff for the World Junior Championship – 2015 as an assistant coach, which featured a gold medal, and 2016 as head coach – Lowry has pretty much seen it all, and Greig has done his part to soak up as much as he can from his new coach.
“The main thing is my compete level, since I have gotten to Brandon, has increased a lot,” Greig said. “Coach Dave Lowry has taught me the way of the game, and how he played the game.
“The coaches are so one-on-one with you. They’re great player coaches and have taught me so much since I’ve been here.”
Greig excelled in his second season in Brandon and first under the tutelage of Lowry, recording 60 points (26G-34A) in only 56 appearances during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 campaign. You put that alongside a rookie campaign that featured 35 points (14G-21A) in 63 contests in 2018-19, and there’s no question that Greig is well on his way. A big part of that evolution came from a critical change in how Greig was deployed.
“He’s a very driven player and he was an easy guy to coach,” Lowry said. “All he wanted to do every day was come to the rink and get better.
“His first year, he played more wing than centre. I wanted him in the middle. I really think that is where we see the best player, and that plays to his strengths. It allows him to skate, it allows him to be creative, and it allows him to have the puck on entries a lot more than if he was playing wing.
“I put him in the position to be the No. 1 centreman on our team and he was going to play against other teams’ older guys. He got better every game and he never looked back.”
Greig is quick to note that he spent a great deal of his rookie season in Brandon acting as a sponge – soaking up as much as possible from the likes of veterans Connor Gutenberg and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Stelio Mattheos.
Those are two pretty good centremen to have learned from. Gutenberg enjoyed a five-year WHL career (2015-16 to 2019-20), while Mattheos played four seasons in the WHL (2015-16 to 2018-19) prior to joining the professional ranks with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.
“When I was 16, I was taking it slow and learning from the older guys,” Greig said. “This year, I took things into my own hands and tried to succeed.”
And succeed he did.
NHL Central Scouting has the pesky forward ranked 14th among North American skaters, proof that his abilities on the ice as a playmaking and shift-disturbing forward have not gone unnoticed.
Originally selected by the Wheat Kings eighth overall in the 2017 WHL Draft, Greig is now only days away from the ultimate dream – hearing his name called by an NHL Club.
With files from Robert Murray