It's the seventh NHL team for the St. Thomas native aiming to solidify
a career as a consistent, reliable depth player
Friday, January 1st, 2021
By Rob J. Ross
ST. THOMAS - Greg McKegg is midway through his tour of the NHL's Eastern Conference.
Or as the 28-year old from St. Thomas jokes, he's heading to his third Original Six team.
Since making his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014, McKegg has played in 185 games with six teams, also skating for Pittsburg, Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina and the New York Rangers.
Now McKegg is in Beantown, after signing a one year two-way contract in October with the Boston Bruins.
"I'm excited to be going to a team like the Bruins. They've had a lot of success in recent years. I'm looking to contribute in any way I can," said McKegg. "A lot of big name players there and they've been a good team for a long time. I'm excited to learn the ways of Boston and get accommodated."
This past season in midtown Manhattan, McKegg had five goals and four assists over 54 games, averaging 9:33 of ice time per game.
That comes on the heels of setting career season highs of six goals and five assists, with Carolina, during the 2018-19 campaign.
"Going into a new locker room every year always takes a little time to start gelling, said McKegg. "Most teams are similar and I've been lucky with the organizations I've been with. I've heard great things about Boston, so I'm looking forward to that."
McKegg understands NHL teams may look at him as more of a bottom six forward.
"It's a privilege playing in the league in any role you can. I like to play as big a role as I can, but being a depth player I'll help in any way," said McKegg. "I think to be able to be a player that a coach can rely on, to be responsible, a big key every night is consistency. It's something guys in my position strive for."
Reliably in all areas of the ice is what McKegg constantly focuses on.
"For me, it's to keep on building on my 200-foot game," said McKegg. "I know it's vague and everybody says that, but being a depth guy it's important to be able to play up and down in the line-up and contribute in all three zones."
Fans are becoming more familiar with McKegg, in part to having one of game's coolest nicknames, Kegger.
"Anytime I run in to fans, that's one of the first things they tell me," laughs McKegg. "I've got that all along the way. I'm used to it now. I always thought it was nothing crazy, but everyone seems to gravitate to that."
The year of 2020 has certainly been unusual and one McKegg won't forget, with the pause in the season, playing in a bubble and facing his former team in the first round of the playoffs.
"It's been crazy. You had to adjust on the fly," said McKegg, recalling when the Rangers first heard of the season being suspended. "We were playing in Colorado and we were supposed to fly to Arizona after the game. Our bags were packed. Then we heard the NBA was on pause. We were told to go back to the hotel and wait until morning. Then we headed back to New York."
When the game did return, it was a different experience playing in an empty arena.
"I remember when we came out for the first game warm-ups and no one was there. It sunk it then. It felt like an inter-squad game. The first period was odd, but once you got into the game it went away," said McKegg. "It (playing in a bubble) was weird. They did a good job keeping us busy and keeping us safe. It was nice to get the season in."
Unfortunately for McKegg, the Rangers never seemed to hit the restart button themselves, losing their best of three series to Carolina in three games.
But that allowed McKegg to return to St. Thomas and meet his first niece, the daughter of his sister, Brit.
"It's been awesome to have time to be around her."
McKegg also mixed in a few rounds of golf with his workout routine, preparing for 2020-2021 season, which at the time no one knew when the puck would drop for it.
The former Elgin-Middlesex Chief hopes to add more highlights in his career. Currently at the top of the memorable moments, are his first NHL goal, scored against the Leafs and the 2018 playoffs with Carolina advancing to the Eastern Conference final.
"The first NHL goal is something I'll always remember," said McKegg, scoring against the team that drafted him. "That playoff run we had in Carolina was something was special. Losing to Boston in the conference final was disappointing, (but) playing in those games with that atmosphere was a lot fun."
Facing off against his childhood favourite NHL team continues to be a thrill.
"It's always fun lining up against the iconic Red Wing jersey, especially for me being a Red Wings' fan growing up. Playing them the first few times, you pinch yourself," said McKegg. "I know my dad (Mike) always enjoys going to those games."
As McKegg continues to carve out a NHL career, he'll always be overshadowed by the number one player from St. Thomas, some player named Joe Thornton.
"Yea, no one is going to knock off the number one guy off the pedestal," McKegg said with a laugh. "Being from the same hometown as Joe is pretty cool. He was a great guy for me to look up too and it's awesome to see what he has done in his career. I've played him a bunch now. This year we played him in San Jose and I think it was his 1600th game (Dec. 16th, 2019). It's just impressive what he has done."
McKegg and Cory Emmerton are currently the second most known hockey players from St. Thomas.
Emmerton now skates for Lausanne, in the Swiss A-League, after 139 games with the Detroit Red Wings. The 32-year old won two Spengler Cups with Team Canada in 2015 and 2016.
In between his NHL stops, McKegg has played American Hockey League games with the Toronto Marlies, Portland Pirates, Springfield Thunderbirds, Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and Charlotte Checkers.
McKegg is now in Boston preparing for the upcoming NHL season, scheduled to start mid January.
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