Two Star WHL’ers Are Going Pro In Unprecedented Fashion

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images North America

In a season full of confusion and unpredictability, two 2020 draft eligible WHL’ers have done something unpredictable. Oftentimes, we see CHL players sign professional contracts before their eligibility is up, but not typically in this manner. Usually, European players will go back to Europe to pursue pro hockey, but rarely do we see two young draft eligible stars sign professional deals after their draft eligible seasons.

Especially when they are from North America. None the less, that is what Winnipeg Ice star Connor McClennon and Brandon Wheat Kings star Ridly Greig have done. The two 2020 draft eligible forwards have signed professional contracts with Karlskrona HK, a Swedish team in HockeyEttan, a Division III league.

Karlskrona HK was relegated from the Swedish Allsvenskan league this season due to financial reasons, according to Elite Prospects. They finished 11th overall out of 14 teams, owning a 14-26-6 record.

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The move comes as the WHL start date is set for early December, but is subject to change. This move could be an indication that players are unnerved about the plan for this season and have more faith playing overseas than staying in North America. However, that is only speculation. 

What makes the signings all the more confusing is the fact that the team got relegated for lack of money, yet they were able to bring in two rising stars. As of now, the term of the contracts have not been disclosed, however, it is safe to assume that their contracts feature out clauses that could see both head back to Canada if the season resumes earlier than planned.  

McClennon and Greig are both rising stars with big futures in the WHL. They each could have been league leaders for their respective teams in the next couple of seasons.

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McClennon was drafted second overall by the Winnipeg ICE back in 2017. He finished the season with 49 points which the right-winger recorded in 42 games. He was also named alternate captain in his second season of major junior.

McClennon was trusted by his coaching staff and was a leader for his team in Winnipeg. This was in their first season after the team was relocated from Kootenay. A relocation could be tough for a team, but McClennon didn’t let it distract from his game. 

Winnipeg has a lot of young pieces and Matthew Savoie, last year’s first overall, is set to spend the full year with the ICE. McClennon would have been a key part of a very young and talented roster. A roster with the potential to become a top team in the WHL. 

Zachary Peters/Winnipeg ICE

In the next couple of seasons, McClennon could have very well became a top point producer in the league. He is projected to be drafted anywhere between the second-fourth round in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Chosen just six spots behind McClennon, Ridly Greig was arguably the best player on the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2019-20. 

His 60 points in 56 games were just two points shy of the Wheat Kings’ lead. This being the case despite playing seven less games than Brandon’s leading scorer. Greig is a hardworking player who knows exactly how to get under opponents skin. 

He also knows how to help get his team on the scoresheet. Like his new teammate, Greig is also eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He is expected to be a second-round pick, but has been ranked as high as the first-round.

Brandon Wheat Kings/WHL

Perhaps the most shocking part of the deal is the team they chose to sign with. It’s hard to imagine that HockeyEttan was the highest level league that was willing to sign the two. Both are young forwards who present on the ice with high skillsets. 

The league is undoubtedly strong, but it is surprising that other teams in leagues such as the Allsvenskan didn’t take a a chance on either player. It’s rare that North American players sign professional deals before their junior eligibility ends. It’s just as rare to before being drafted, thus being deemed ready to compete at the next level.

While both Connor McClennon and Ridly Greig are strong with lots of potential, it is still early for either one to sign professional deals. This is likely why the two forwards elected to sign with Karlskrona HK, as it is a safe place to grow and develop, while offering them a place to take on older competition. It’s a place that does not rush or pressure them into meeting high expectations that will be tough to handle.

Luke Durda/OHL Images

With the WHL currently scheduled to make their return on the fourth of December, it will be interesting to see if other CHL’ers follow in the footsteps of McClennon and Greig.

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