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'Hippo' style helps Greentree make a splash in NHL draft pool


Liam Greentree breaks into a smile when asked why he wears No. 66. 

"I was No. 6 growing up because that's what my brother wore," the Windsor Spitfires winger explained. "Then the OHL draft came and, you know, got a call [from Windsor] and they were asking me, 'What number are you going to wear?' So, I was like, 'Six. I'll wear six,' and they're like, 'That’s retired. You can't do that.'"

Ryan Ellis wore No. 6 while helping the Spitfires win two Memorial Cups. The franchise retired his number in 2016. 

"I was like, 'Oh, I'll just go 66,'" Greentree recalled. "Obviously, Mario Lemieux was 66 so I get that chirp a lot. Guys just kind of go, 'Attaboy, Mario,' or something like that. I just think it's funny, honestly ... But I think I've done the number [proud]."

The numbers on the stats page certainly look good. Greentree led the Spitfires with 36 goals and 90 points this season. He was also named the team's captain in January. 

For the record, the 6-foot-3, 215 pounder doesn't compare his game to that of Lemieux. It's actually Minnesota Wild winger Matt Boldy and Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn that Greentree views as his NHL role models. 

"Two big guys, power forwards who protect the puck and can shoot it," he said. "Those guys are my comparisons."

Greentree is preparing to head to Las Vegas for the NHL draft where he's projected to be a first round pick on Friday. TSN director of scouting Craig Button has the 18-year-old from Oshawa, Ont. going No. 16 to the St. Louis Blues in his latest mock draft. Button's final mock draft is due out on Tuesday. 

Wherever Greentree lands, he won't be wearing No. 66 in the NHL. 

"No," he confirmed with a chuckle. "I'll definitely have to change it, for sure."

In a conversation with TSN, Greentree spoke about navigating a last-place season in Windsor and shared what it would mean to be picked by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who he grew up cheering for. The following is an edited transcript of the interview. 

TSN: The Spitfires finished at the bottom of the Western Conference in the Ontario Hockey League this year. How did you keep things on the right track amid the adversity? 

Greentree: Just trying to stay as positive as I can is a big thing or me. Just keeping a good mindset throughout everything that happened was huge for me and I think a lot of guys kind of followed that. 

TSN: What was your best leadership moment this season? 

Greentree: We were down 5-1 to Guelph [on Feb. 23] and we came back. It was 7-6 and I went end to end and scored and tied it up and forced overtime. We won in OT. That was a big thing. It showed I can stay resilient and I'm a leader. 

TSN: What were you feeling when it was 5-1? 

Greentree: I mean, for me, it doesn't really matter the score. I'm just there to work hard and do what I can to make sure our team wins and so that's what I did. I went out there and worked hard.

TSN: On a personal level, how did you maintain a positive mindset this season?

Greentree: It's keeping my head down and going to work. I have a goal every day I go into the rink and that's just to get better. As long as I'm doing that it's pretty easy to get through the day. 

TSN: How did you get better this season? 

Greentree: My skating got a lot better throughout the year. I think it started pretty slow, but it got better. I worked a lot with our skating coach Kathy McLlwain. Instead of doing an hour of power skating and an hour of skills, it was two hours of power skating. It was taking the extra time and really working on that, because it's something I know I need to work on.  

TSN: What did you change technically? 

Greentree: Just making sure my stride is a full stride. And then obviously quick starts is a something big. Just getting on my toes faster and making those first three steps as fast as I can. There's a lot more to do there. There's a lot more I need to work on. I'm not done yet, obviously, and it's going to be exciting to see what I can do in the next year. 

TSN: In the OHL coaches poll, you got some love in the best shootout shooter category, tying for second in the Western Conference. Why are you good in that situation? 

Greentree: After practices I do the five-puck game, which is where you go on five breakaways and try to beat the goalie. I did that almost every practice and I think that helped a lot. Some of my teammates were probably getting annoyed at it (smile) but it's something I did every practice and that helped a lot. 

TSN: What's your favourite move? 

Greentree: I kind of go backhand forehand, but I fake the forehand and pull it back to my backhand. I think the goalies really expect, nowadays, that backhand forehand shot so I like to fake them out. 

TSN: How many moves do you have that you're confident in right now? 

Greentree: I would say I got three or four main moves that I like to pull out, so I think I can be pretty deceptive. 

TSN: Are you reacting to the goalie when you're coming in or do you just puck a move and go with it? 

Greentree: I kind of just pick my move. 

TSN: You scored the only goal for Team White at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. How did you feel about your play on that stage? 

Greentree: That was a lot of fun. I thought I played really well. I didn't take it for granted. It was a really cool experience and something I was excited to be a part of. Unfortunately we lost, but all those guys there were really good, so it was really cool seeing some of those guys for the first time. 

TSN: What did you like about your game? 

Greentree: I was playing really fast that game. I was on my toes a lot. I thought that was a little different, that I played like that. 

TSN: What's the best part of your game? 

Greentree: My hockey IQ and knowing what to do with the puck and knowing where to be when I don't have the puck. I think that really shines in my game. 

TSN: You had 25 interviews at the NHL scouting combine. What's the toughest question you got? 

Greentree: The one about what animal you are on the ice and off the ice. The Uber rating, I had that one too. Those were the weirdest questions I got. 

TSN: So, what animal are you on the ice? 

Greentree: A hippo, which I think is a really good answer. I don't think a lot of people think it is, but I think it's a good answer ... They're very aggressive and they're really strong. I'm pretty sure they're more powerful than a lion. 

TSN: Did the Uber question from Utah surprise you? 

Greentree: A little bit. It's just something you don't hear every day, so it's a little bit weird, but I have a pretty good score – 4.95 – so I was kind of happy I was able to share it. 

TSN: When do you think you will be picked in the draft? 

Greentree: I don't put too much expectation on it. I want to have a lot of fun with it so, for me, it doesn't really matter too much what pick. But, you know, somewhere around 13 to 25 would be good for me. 

TSN: What song did you ask to play when you get picked? 

Greentree: I got 'Courage' by The Tragically Hip, a good Canadian band. 

TSN: What do you like about that song? 

Greentree: Just an upbeat song. You can play it any time. You can play it around a fire at a cottage or on a boat, so it's a pretty good song. 

TSN: Who did you cheer for growing up? 

Greentree: I've been a Leafs fan. The whole family put me into it.

TSN: What was your favourite fan moment growing up? 

Greentree: It was for my first game with my papa. They beat Buffalo 4-3. It was exciting and a really cool moment for me. 

TSN: What was the interview like with the Leafs at the combine? 

Greentree: It was good. They're all great guys. It went pretty well, I thought. 

TSN: The Leafs have the 23rd pick, which is in the range you mentioned. Have you thought about what it would be like to be picked by Toronto? 

Greentree: Yeah, I have. It would be pretty cool, honestly. Just a classic team, Original Six, and watching them play while growing up, it would be cool for sure. 

TSN: How would you handle the attention and scrutiny that comes from playing under the microscope? 

Greentree: Yeah, I think I can handle it pretty well. I'm a pretty good guy. I think I could handle the media pretty well. 

TSN: Is it your sense that your family is hoping you land with the Leafs? 

Greentree: They'd love it (smile). They'd love it, for sure.