ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling players who just completed their rookie seasons with the organization. This installment takes a look at forward A.J. Greer.
A.J. Greer had quite the road of development leading up to his NHL debut this past season with the Colorado Avalanche.
Here is a look at how he got there.
Being a Terrier
After playing prep school hockey in New Hampshire, Greer was offered a spot to skate for Boston University starting in 2014 and played for the Terriers for parts of the next two years.
In his first season in Boston, Greer played in 37 games as the youngest forward in the NCAA and went on to register three goals and four assists. BU had a strong year and made it to the Frozen Four. On the biggest stage of college hockey, Greer scored a key goal to help the Terriers to a 5-3 win over North Dakota in the national semifinals, which gave the club a chance to play for a championship two days later. In the national title game, the Terriers put up a fight but fell 4-3 to Providence.
His strong freshman campaign at BU helped propel him in the draft rankings, and the Avs used the No. 39 overall selection on him that summer at the 2015 NHL Draft.
During his second season at BU in 2015-16, Greer played in 18 games and registered five points (one goal and four assists) before deciding it would be best for his development to depart BU and pursue an opportunity to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
"I think BU is a great program, great facilities, great coaches," Greer said to ColoradoAvalanche.com. "It just wasn't the right fit for me from a development standpoint. It was a tough decision to leave a diploma hanging, but I had to make a decision for my career and I wanted to be a hockey player."
The risk of giving up his NCAA eligibility and putting graduation on hold was large, but it was a risk he was willing to take.
"Obviously, there is leaving a diploma from one of the best universities in the world, and another thing was if it doesn't work out in hockey, I don't have that backup for school," said the Joliette, Quebec, native. "School is very important for myself and my parents, so whether I play hockey and it doesn't work out or something, I can always go back to school. For hockey, it was a big risk. It was a make or break situation. I just gave it my all."
Success In The Q
The QMJHL has more of a pro-style schedule with 68 games compared to the average 40 games as a D-I hockey player.
Despite not being used to the rigors of three of four games a week, Greer ended up being successful after joining Rouyn-Noranda midway through the 2015-16 season. He finished the QMJHL campaign with 16 goals and 11 assists in 33 games and went on to add another 12 goals and 10 assists in 20 playoff games for the Huskies, who made an historic run for the President's Cup to become QMJHL champions.
With a berth to the coveted Memorial Cup, the team continued its fairy tale season by advancing to the final game. Unfortunately, Rouyn-Noranda lost 3-2 in overtime to the London Knights in the championship contest.
The 6-foot-3, 204-pound forward finished the Memorial Cup tournament with a tally and a helper in five contests.
Inking A Deal
On July 1, 2016, the Avalanche signed Greer to a three-year, entry-level contract, proving his risk to further his development at the major-junior level had paid off.
Greer was placed on the roster of the San Antonio Rampage, Colorado's American Hockey League affiliate, to start the 2016-17 season, and by November, he was leading all AHL rookies with five goals, nine assists and 14 points.
Making his Debut
On Nov. 12, the winger was recalled by the Avalanche, and he suited up for the first time in burgundy and blue the following day against the Boston Bruins on home ice. The Avs fell 2-0 to the Bruins, but Greer made an impression on Colorado head coach Jared Bednar during his NHL debut.
"Greer I thought did a good job getting on pucks, using his legs, playing with a little speed, taking the puck to the net on a couple of occasions," Bednar said.
First NHL Point
While he was reassigned to San Antonio soon after his first contest on Nov. 14, it only took two days before the Avs recalled him to the big leagues once again. He made his way to Dallas to be in the lineup versus the Stars on Nov. 17 and recorded his first NHL point when he assisted on Mikhail Grigorenko's tally in the third period.
"It was a great play, back and forth in the D-zone and then we got it out," he said in a postgame interview. "[Fedor Tyutin] gave it to me in the middle, and I kind of just turned around, found [Nathan MacKinnon], [who] put it on net, and Grigo put it in. Great tip."
Rest of the Season
Greer went on to play three more games with the Avalanche, facing off against Minnesota, Columbus and Edmonton, before being reassigned to the Rampage for the remainder of the season. In total, he played 63 games with San Antonio and ended the year second on the team in goals (15) and points (38).
Man of the Year
At the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign, Greer was named the AHL Man of the Year for his community efforts off the ice.
Greer has been well known to spend his free time at local children's hospitals, and he has also put on many fundraiser events, such as hockey tournaments, to support those in need. This, along with his strong presence on the ice, led him to be the recipient of the award.
He became just the second Rampage player to be given the honor, joining Josh Tordjman in 2009-10.
While the 20-year-old made a strong impression in his first professional campaign, he'll be aiming to make a larger impact this season as he tries to earn an everyday spot in the NHL.
"It was such an amazing time there, and I know what it takes to get there and I know what to expect," Greer said of his time with the Avs. "It's definitely in the back of my mind and my motivation."