In a tournament overshadowed by developments off the ice, a pair of prospects from the Ottawa Senators played an important role in helping Team Canada secure the 2022 World Junior Championship title.
While the likes of Mason McTavish and Connor Bedard attracted the lion’s share of attention, Ridly Greig and Zack Ostapchuk were consistent performers under head coach Dave Cameron. As a result, they will enter the upcoming season with a spring in their step.
Canada saw off Team Finland’s threat in the final, winning courtesy of a frantic period of three-on-three overtime. Kent Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets notched the clincher, but how did the Senators’ WJC-winning duo fare and what does the future hold for them?
Senators’ Ridly Greig Stars in Middle-Six Role
Before suffering an upper-body injury versus Team Switzerland in the quarter-finals, Greig was one of Canada’s most influential players and was hailed for his tenacity by Cameron.
The 20-year-old’s best performance of the tournament arrived in Canada’s final round-robin fixture, recording a goal and an assist in a 6-3 win over Finland. His helper was the by-product of relentless work in the offensive zone as the former Brandon Wheat Kings captain drove through centre ice to create an unmissable chance for Philadelphia Flyers prospect Tyson Foerster.
Asked to define his linemate’s quality, Foerster said: “His work ethic is insane, his heart, blocks shots, back checks, score goals, he does it all.”
Greig scored shortly after the break, reacting first to a loose puck at the top of the crease to restore Canada’s three-goal advantage. It was a brave play from a player desperate to make an impact on the international stage:
Despite keeping a relatively low profile, Greig was one of Canada’s most effective forwards at the World Juniors, finishing the tournament ranked seventh on the team in points despite missing two matches through injury.
The former 28th-overall pick was a crucial member of Canada’s third line, combing with Joshua Roy and William Dufour to create a high-energy, high-skill unit in the middle-six. He also found success as a penalty killer and made a key block against Finland in the group phase.
“That’s where you get so much respect from your teammates, blocking shots,” McTavish said. “I have so much respect for him.”
Greig’s performances at the World Juniors bode well for Ottawa. Following three impressive seasons in the Western Hockey League (WHL), the left-shooting forward has honed his craft and developed into a reliable utility player.
With the Senators adding quality to their forward corps this summer, the left-shot winger’s ability to excel in numerous roles is a major asset and will help him stick in the majors once he breaks through at the professional level.
Greig notched six points (three goals, three assists) in five appearances at the World Juniors. If he combines his high compete level and formidable skill in the senior ranks, he will enjoy success with the Bellville Senators in 2022-23. His future is bright.
Senators’ Zack Ostapchuk Continues Developmental Journey
Zack Ostapchuk is on a roll. He contributed 43 points (26 goals, 17 assists) in 60 WHL appearances for the Vancouver Giants last season before adding three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games at the World Juniors.
The 19-year-old centred Canada’s fourth line in Edmonton, linking up with Brennan Othmann and Elliot Desnoyers in the final, and is expected to return to the fold for the winter tournament. Described as a “tremendous skater” by Giants general manager Barclay Parneta, he was a late addition to Canada’s roster and made the most of his opportunity.
“I heard there were a couple of injuries and I wanted to be a replacement really bad,” the former 39th-overall pick told TSN. “It caught me by surprise when they called, but I was ecstatic.”
Ostapchuk’s only strike of the tournament came in an 11-1 victory over Slovakia, scoring from close range to put a cherry on top for the Canadians.
After producing a run of impressive performances at the World Juniors and finishing sixth in scoring in the WHL playoffs, the 6-foot-3 centreman enters the new year with an enhanced reputation. If he continues on the same trajectory, he could be in for a breakout season at club level.
Senators Prospects Thrived at the World Juniors
That said, Greig and Ostapchuk were not the only representatives of the Senators at the World Juniors. Roby Järventie played an integral role in Finland’s run to the final, amassing nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven appearances. Leevi Merilainen also featured for the Finns, upholding a .893 save percentage through four outings.
Defenceman Tomas Hamara narrowly missed out on capturing a bronze medal with Team Czechia, registering one assist in seven appearances at his first under-20 tournament. Tyler Kleven also participated, playing five games for Team USA.
If the latest iteration of the World Juniors underscored anything, it is that the Senators’ pipeline of prospects is legit. The process is working for Ottawa.
Luke is an award-winning freelance sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.