On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed Alex Green to a two-year, entry-level contract that will cover the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. It’s always odd when a team makes a transaction during a playoff run, but Julien BriseBois has plenty of time on his hands in the Edmonton bubble so he might as well get some work done. Green was a 4th round pick by the Lightning in the 2018 draft and set to be a senior at Cornell University this fall.
Chances are that the uncertainty surrounding college athletics next season helped make the 22-year-old’s decision a little easier. Why sit around wondering if the ECAC is going to play when you can get a head start on your pro career? For the Lightning it adds some more young talent in the defensive pipeline. While Green won’t be fighting for a spot in Tampa he does have a chance to earn some serious playing time in Syracuse.
While free agency hasn’t really fired up (teams can sign players to an AHL deal, but a lot of the players on the AHL/NHL bubble may be waiting until NHL free agency starts in October to see if they can secure a NHL contract) the Crunch’s defense is looking a bit thin right now. Cal Foote will probably start the season in Syracuse, but will be on the express track for playing time with the Lightning. Sean Day and Luke Witkowski are the only other veterans currently under contract. Devante Stephens (RFA) will probably be back and Cameron Gaunce (UFA) seems to really like Salt City so hopefully he re-signs.
Another young player, Dmitri Semykin, may be patrolling the blue line as well, but there is still a good chance that Green makes the Crunch and plays quite a bit. So what should Syracuse and Tampa Bay expect out of the Chicago native?
Honestly, it’s hard to say. In all likelihood, Green would have returned to Cornell for his senior season for a little more seasoning. While he had a solid 2019-20 season with 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) he did miss a large portion of the previous season due to a concussion. His play last season was good enough to be named the best defensive defenseman in the ECAC.
Due to his size (6’2”, 187 lbs) and the fact that he plays on the right side of the defense he will earn a lot of comparisons to Cal Foote, but Green might be a little bit better of a skater. While he produced offensively in college, that might not translate to the pros. His offensive instincts are fine and he will put a few in the net, but he’s most likely to be a defense-first player.
Raw Charge’s Lauren Kelly had a chance to watch a few Cornell games this season and offers this report on Green:
He moves pretty well for a bigger player (there is always room for improvement). Since they drafted him as an overager the expectation was for him to play out his four seasons with Cornell before they considered signing him to an ELC, but with there being so much uncertainty this season I think it speaks volumes with how much they like him and his potential to sign him with one year of college eligibility remaining.
He’s definitely not a player who’s going to dominate offensively, he’s more of your typical stay-at-home defender (if those even exist anymore). He’s also, I think, a lot more known for his defensive game than his offense, IIRC he’s the ECAC’s current Defensive Defenseman of the Year, and I think playing on such a stacked Cornell team this year is why his point totals are higher than they normally would be.
Some highlights (he’s number six for Cornell)
(It’s a mix of Cornell highlights, but there is a run of Green goals starting at 1:41 showing that he can score in a variety of ways)
The strong season last year could move him up in the Lightning’s prospect charts (he’s yet to crack our Top 25 under 25 nor did he make The Athletic’s list of top Lightning prospects complied in January by Scott Wheeler) and if he continues to show promise in Syracuse, he could be on a fast track to the NHL considering Tampa Bay’s lack of depth in the defensive pipeline.
Like most players making the transition from college hockey to professional he’ll have to deal with the increased speed of the game as well as the more physical nature of the game. Unlike players coming out of junior hockey, the transition shouldn’t be as dramatic. It’s not like he’s a 19-year-old kid going up against 30-year-olds. In fact, he’s older than Foote and the same age as Day who has over 100 games of professional experience. Getting used to the grind of a long season will most likely be his biggest adjustment.
There is a chance that Green could develop into a consistent producer at the NHL level in a season or two. If that happens, it’ll be another steal for Al Murray and his staff considering the Cornell product was skipped over in two drafts and not drafted until the fourth round in his final year of eligibility.