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The Heroes of 2020
Teenager from Paradise is committed to Boston University, perhaps as soon as this fall, but for now, he's making the most of his time in Green Bay
By John MacNeil
Special to SaltWire Network
After joining the Green Bay Gamblers midway through last season, Newfoundlander Ryan Greene was more than ready for his return to Wisconsin and the United States Hockey League (USHL) season.
The promising young forward from Paradise was at ease even before celebrating his 17th birthday in October. An 18-game initiation last winter gave Greene a taste of life in the USHL and set him up well for his first full season of junior.
“I feel a lot more comfortable and confident,” he said. “Last year was a lot different than this year. It was good to get those 18 games in last season to get a feel for the league. I think I’ve been playing really well this year and I’ve been producing, which is good, so I’m happy with it all so far.”
Greene has been one of Green Bay’s top players this season, with five goals and 11 points after 18 games. He joined the Gamblers in December 2019 after acing prep-school hockey with the 16-and-under South Kent Selects in Connecticut.
“Getting thrown into the USHL as a 16-year-old is not easy for any player,” said Gamblers coach and general manager Pat Mikesch, who coached Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Schmaltz at that age before Schmaltz became a first-round NHL draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014.
“It’s a large adjustment.
“We’re glad we had Ryan here last year, just so that progression could start. Now, he’s stepping in as a major contributor on our club. He’s taken a really large step.”
Greene, who is committed to playing NCAA Division 1 hockey with the Boston University Terriers, has been dedicated toward that goal on and off the ice, especially this season. The travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic — and the busy USHL schedule — prevented him from returning home for Christmas.
“Ryan has actually been here since August, when he came to our summer camp,” Mikesch said from Green Bay. “It’s a long time for a young man to be away from home, but he’s handled it very well.”
Mikesch should know. The coach-GM and his family double as billets for Greene and Camden Thiesing, a 19-year-old forward from Tennessee who has committed to Ohio State University.
Greene carries a touch of home on the back of his jersey. His No. 27 is derived from his grandfather Bill’s No. 2 and his father Jason’s No. 7.
When he was home in Newfoundland last spring and summer, Greene gained strength as he grew to six-foot-one and 170 pounds. During the initial COVID-19 shutdown, he worked out at his house before gyms were permitted to reopen.
“Yeah, it was a lot different,” he said about the 2020 off-season. “I had to train in my garage for two months until we could actually get back into the gym. It was a little bit harder to get motivated and get up every day, but I had to stick with it.
“It was good once I finally got back in the gym and got into a routine and I was able to work out with some of my buddies (including QMJHL players Zach Dean and Conor Shortall). I had a big summer in the gym, so I feel a lot faster and stronger, which has been helping me this year.”
The Gamblers recognize that maturation in Greene, whom they selected third overall in the 2019 USHL draft.
“He’s put on a lot of strength in the last nine months, which is making him that much more comfortable,” said Mikesch. “Ryan has always been a very good skater, and now you’re starting to see the power of that stride and how he can hold people off with the puck. His stick and his vision are extremely ahead of the game for his age. He’s one of those guys that everybody likes to play with, because he distributes the puck so well at the centre position.”
"As of now, I’m fully set for Boston (University). It’s what’s next for me. I’m just excited to get there.” — Ryan Greene
Including his season and a half of prep school, Greene has lived in the U.S. for three years, helping ease his USHL transition.
“Yeah, I agree with that 100 per cent,” Mikesch said. “I think him being away at South Kent gave him the ability to learn how to take care of himself and be responsible and (develop) good eating habits. It’s all of those things that make his life easier now, adjusting to this league.
“I give him a lot of credit, too. Academically, he’s completely ahead of the curve. He’s going to graduate (from high school) almost a full year early. I commend his parents and him for the maturity he shows at such a young age.”
Greene is just a year older than Mikesch’s 16-year-old son, so they’ve connected well as billet brothers.
“Ryan is a great personality,” Mikesch said. “He’s a kid that has a smile on his face all the time. He loves being at the rink. He likes to talk hockey at the house. He knows what he wants, so he’s a fun person to be around when he’s so driven in hockey.”
"Academically, he’s completely ahead of the curve. He’s going to graduate (from high school) almost a full year early. I commend his parents and him for the maturity he shows at such a young age.” — Gamblers head coach Pat Mikesch
Greene was just 15 when he committed to Boston University in 2019. He moved one step closer to NCAA hockey this fall when he signed his National Letter of Intent to attend BU and join the Terriers, possibly as early as the 2021-22 season.
“That’s the goal for me right now, the next step, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It should be coming soon, so I’m excited.
Greene has already decided to remain on the college track and not to play major junior with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Charlottetown Islanders, who chose him in the fourth round of the 2019 QMJHL draft.
“No, as of now, I’m fully set for Boston (University),” he said. “It’s what’s next for me. I’m just excited to get there.”