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FEATURE: Greer's Long, Winding Road Returns to NHL

It's been 26 months since Devils forward A.J. Greer played in the NHL, but he never doubted his return

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

If there's one thing you should know about Devils forward A.J. Greer, it's this: 

"I am a very confident person, but I think I'm more so passionate. I have my eyes set on something. I'll do anything to make that happen."

Those words were uttered by Greer Monday morning, the day he was recalled to the National Hockey League and getting set to play in the League for the first time in over 26 months. 

"Now I have a chance to show what I can do at the highest level of professional hockey. That's a dream come true for me," Greer, 24, said. "I'm a little nervous, but once things get going here, I'll be ready to go, give everything I've got and be able to give everything that I can provide to make sure that this team wins hockey games."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | AJ Greer 05.03.21

Greer, a second-round pick (39th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft by Colorado, has had brief stints in the NHL. He's played 37 career games in the league, but hasn't been in The Show since Feb. 23, 2019. 

"My last NHL game was a bit ago, but I've gained a lot of maturity and poise (since then)," Greer said. "And I think knowing my game a lot more. I'll be even more ready this time around."

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound forward has played entirely in the American Hockey League over the better part of the last three seasons in Colorado, Bridgeport and Binghamton. During that time, Greer became more comfortable with his identity as a player. 

"I'm a power forward. I think I'm a reliable player in three zones," he said. "I think I can provide some energy. I can provide some offensive touch and using my big body to move around, and create opportunities for my linemates and myself. But a lot of energy, physicality and a lot of passion."

Greer hasn't just fine-tuned his game during his past two years away from the NHL. He's also become mentally stronger. 

"Things don't go straight (in a career). They zig-zag and you have to react to that," Greer said. "You have to adapt to certain situations and being able to respond." 

"It's a grind. It's mental," Greer continued. "You're itching to get back up there. You don't want to think about it too much, but you also want to prove that you can do it. For me, to get this opportunity, I'm so grateful. I'm going to take this opportunity and run with it, do the best that I can. But it's been a little bit since I've been here. I'm grateful for every second."

Greer joined the Devils, along with a 2021 first-round pick, conditional fourth-round pick and forward Mason Jobst from the NY Islanders in exchange for forwards Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieiri. 

"I was shocked, but I was very excited," Greer said of the trade. "I was really excited to be in a situation with another fresh start and show everyone what I've got. I'm really happy to be here."

Greer has made the most of that fresh start. In 10 games with Binghamton, he has scored three goals and posted nine points. And it was his play that earned himself a shot tonight. 

"Everyone has to create their own opportunity. Nothing is given to you, especially at this level," Greer said. "For me, it's just being able to work hard and do my job, do everything to help the team out wherever I am." 

It's been a long road back to the NHL with many low points. But even in his darkest hours, Greer never doubted that he would one day get that call to rejoin the NHL. 

"I don't think there was any doubt as far as getting back to the NHL and getting this opportunity," he said. "I knew that I was going to get another opportunity, whether it was today, yesterday or in three, four years from now because I work hard and I set my goal on something I won't stop working until I get it." 

Speaking of goals, don't think that Greer is settling just for this opportunity. He didn't put his head down and grind away for two years just to be in the NHL. He has bigger aspirations. 

"It's nice that I've been called up, but this is not my goal," he said. "My goal is to help an NHL team win a Stanley Cup and be a regular in this league."

But a player has to walk before he can run. And that means making the most of the opportunity that sits in front of him. 

"Being able to have fun and enjoy the time that I'm here and being able to provide every little aspect that I bring to the game," Greer said of his current task, "being a good teammate, being a good person. That's all I can do. And just enjoy it day-by-day."

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