By Woodard, Dale on June 24, 2020.
Like every major junior hockey player, Ridly Greig’s season was slammed shut in March due to the COVID pandemic.
But not before the Lethbridge product and forward for the Brandon Wheat Kings made an impression.
Last week, Greig was one of 15 Western Hockey League players invited to Hockey Canada’s virtual National Junior Team Sport Chek Summer Development Camp July 27-31, with a chance to help Team Canada defend its gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The 2021 championship returns to Canada this December with Edmonton and Red Deer to co-host the annual holiday tradition.
After a breakout – albeit shortened – season in Brandon with the Wheat Kings, the five-foot-11 centre who is eligible for the NHL draft this summer knew the good news about the virtual camp was coming.
Still, it didn’t make it any less exciting.
“To get that call that I had made it was cool,” said Greig, who will be joined by Wheaties defenceman Braden Schneider. “I’ve had quite a bit of texts, everybody is pretty proud and giving me some congrats. So it feels good to get feedback from everybody. It’s pretty awesome.”
Joining Greig at the virtual camp is Lethbridge Hurricanes forward and Buffalo Sabres draft pick Dylan Cozens. Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram – the Cranbrook product and Colorado Avalanche prospect who played for the Lethbridge Val Matteotti bantam AAA Golden Hawks and Lethbridge midget AAA Hurricanes – is also among the invitees.
Cozens and Byram were members of last year’s gold medal-winning team.
Lethbridge’s Michael Dyck, a former head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and current bench boss of the Vancouver Giants, will serve as one of the assistant coaches alongside Saskatoon Blades coach Mitch Love.
With the pandemic still playing havoc with sports around the globe, ‘virtual’ is the key word in this year’s development camp.
“It’s in late-July and we don’t know too much yet. What I know is it’s Zoom calls and team meetings online,” said Greig, adding the players will remain on the Hockey Canada radar once the season begins, ideally in early-October. “They’ll watch how the start of the season goes for everybody and go from there.”
Selected in the first round and eighth overall in the 2017 WHL bantam draft, Greig nearly doubled his offensive output in his second full year in Brandon.
The forward, who will turn 18 Aug. 8, scored 26 goals and 60 points in 56 games last season, a significant jump from his 14 goals and 35 points in 63 games in 2018-19.
That sent Greig’s NHL Central Scouting ranking from 25th among North American skaters at the midterm up to 14th in the final rankings in early April.
“I just take away all the fun I had this year,” said Greig. “I know our team had a slow start to the season and in the second half we got that 10-game winning streak and it took off from there, everything with our team chemistry. I’m looking forward to getting back there in October and getting things going again.”
But with the Wheat Kings hitting their late-season stride and Greig enjoying a career year, it all ground to a halt in mid-March when the COVID pandemic forced the cancellation of the season.
“It’s definitely terrible news,” said Greig, whose team was 35-22-4-2 and in the battle for top spot in the WHL East Division.
“You have all different kinds of emotions. There’s nothing you can really do about it. You just have to deal with it.”
With training facilities shut down, Greig took his training regiment into isolation.
“I’ve just been training in my garage since the gyms haven’t been open,” said Greig. “We built a decent gym in our garage, so that’s been OK. It’s just been laying low here in Lethbridge. I’ve been golfing more now and going surfing and boating on the weekends.”
That, and waiting to see when the NHL draft – originally slated for Friday and Saturday in Montreal before being postponed due to COVID – will be held. The NHL draft lottery will take place Friday.
Lethbridge Hurricanes defenceman Alex Cotton is ranked 79th among North American skaters, while Canes forward Oliver Okuliar is ranked 154th and Noah Boyko 201st.
Hurricanes goaltender Bryan Thomson is ranked 11th among North American goalies.
With his high ranking, Greig has the chance to go in the first round of the draft like his father, Mark, did in 1990, going 15th overall to the Hartford Whalers.
“I guess during the season I was thinking about it more,” said Greig. “But now you just wait for the Tweet or something about the date and then you start looking forward to it more. But right I’m not thinking about it too much. It’s not in my head so that’s good.
“I’ll just lay low and work out -that’s all you can really do.”
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