EDMONTON - Ridly Greig might not start the 2022-23 season with the Ottawa Senators, but, dang flabbit, he should find himself there at some point.
And, even if he did start the season with the Senators, he'd have to watch from the sidelines first. He got a suspension before ever playing a regular season game. That's because Greig -- known to be a bit of a shizz disturber at points -- was suspended for one pre- and one regular-season game last year due to crosschecking Pierre-Luc Dubois. Greig was promptly returned to the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings and didn't got to serve the regular season portion of that suspension.
That's definitely unique. And so is the brand of hockey he brings to Canada's lineup each night at the World Junior Championship. He still has that aggressive edge, but he has the skill, strength, speed and vision that has allowed him to be a two-time player of the game title holder for Canada, a rare accomplishment in a four-game round robin.
And if you watch him, you can easily see why. His one-handed goal against Latvia in Canada's opener was one of the best goals of the preliminary round. He then set up a goal in the second game against Slovakia and added his own goals against Czechia and Finland. Greig has been the heart and soul of Canada's third line, working between Joshua Roy and William Dufour to form a skilled energy line.
There's also his special teams play, where he has found success on the power play, but, more importantly, he has been one of Canada's biggest penalty killers, finding creative ways to block shots and fight through the pain. On Finland's five-minute advantage late in the third, Greig blocked a shot with his right leg and kept treking even in obvious pain.
"That's where you get so much respect from your teammates, blocking shots," captain Mason McTavish said. "I have so much respect for him."
Greig's buzzsaw nature allowed him to outmuscle a Finnish defender and knock in a bouncing puck just 31 seconds into the third. Earlier in the game, he split between two defensemen and created a scoring chance that Tyson Foerster eventually finished up, but all eyes were on Greig's effort to make it happen.
"His work ethic is insane, his heart, blocks shots, back checks, score goals, he does it all," Foerster said.
Greig's teammates have smiled all tournament when talking about Greig -- you can tell they appreciate him as a teammate. He can get himself into trouble at times, but he's willing to do whatever it takes to get the victory, and
"He's a huge part for us, he scores goals, he's always there on the big faceoff, he's there on the PK to block shots," forward Nathan Gaucher said.
Speaking of that PK, Canada's PK sits second behind Sweden at 81.82. Canada has spent the third amount of time shorthanded overall behind Austria (28:41) and Czechia (22:38) with 26:12. Block shots aren't publicly available in IIHF events, but just watching him play, you have to imagine Greig is near the top among forwards in this tournament.
Greig was ranked 43rd in The Hockey News' Future Watch rankings, sitting third behind Jake Sanderson and Shane Pinto on Ottawa's list. Given the Senators' impressive prospect pool, that's a good thing, and Greig seems to have all the makings of a quality NHLer.
Greig's real advantage is being able to play in any role -- top line, third line, goal-support, in-your-face, you name it -- and find success. That's the type of versatility teams crave, and with Ottawa boasting an impressive top nine, Greig likely will find himself deeper in the lineup when he makes the team, and that's OK. Every team needs players that can bounce and fill roles throughout, and Greig does that.
As Canada's tournament continues, Greig will continue to force opponents to keep a watchful eye at all times. Sometimes, it feels like his mere presence on the ice messes with players, and he knows that.
Let's see how far that takes him.