Defenseman Alex Green, fresh off an impressive freshman campaign, became the 74th Cornell men’s hockey player to be drafted into the National Hockey League on Saturday when he was selected 121st overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Green, 20, was an integral part of Cornell’s best-in-the-nation defense in 2017-18 and saw his game improve tremendously in what was his third and final year of draft eligibility. He plans to return to Cornell for his sophomore season.
“This is definitely an exciting moment for me and my family,” Green told The Sun. “Tampa was one of the teams I had talked to during the course of the season, so I thought there was maybe a chance of going to them.”
The Chicago native had spent two years prior to Cornell as a Tier I junior player in the USHL. After failing to be drafted in his first two years of eligibility, Green was thrown into the fire as a member of the Red’s stingy blueline unit. On a team that won its regular-season conference title and made national headlines all year long, Green finally found his opportunity to develop into a potentially NHL-caliber player.
“After my first year of being eligible, I obviously didn’t get picked,” Green said. “But I think it was just fuel to the fire. It drove me to improve and that’s kind of what happened. I kept developing and getting better and better.”
Green found himself in high-pressure situations early and often this past season, tasked with playing in all game situations including special teams and even strength. Paired with All-Ivy selection Yanni Kaldis, a rising junior, for most of the season, Green had the opportunity to play with high level talent right from the start.
“We had a great team this year at Cornell, so I obviously have my teammates to thank as well for getting drafted,” Green said.
Perhaps the greatest asset of Green’s game is his skating ability. Last season, he was an integral part of the penalty kill but also generated 10 points on offense, using his movement skills on the ice to make a difference for the Red.
“[Green] contributed offensively, too, his skating skills and getting up and down the ice and contributing in that area,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “He [also] killed penalties for us. He’s such a great skater. I think that’s what sets him apart from a lot of people is his ability to get around the ice.”
As far as some improvements before the rising sophomore is NHL-ready, both Green and Schafer highlighted the need to grow in size and strength.
“I’m not the biggest guy ever… I’m on the slighter side,” Green said. “I think putting on some good weight is definitely a goal of mine, and that’s definitely attainable through Cornell and the facilities we have.”
Green is the first active Cornell player taken in the draft since John McCarron ’15 and Joakim Ryan ’15 were both drafted in 2012 after their freshman seasons. Ryan just completed a reasonably successful rookie season with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
“It’s good for Alex and good for the program,” Schafer said. “It’s good that we’re able to develop players that go onto the next level.”