Jordan Greenway, Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy eye gold at Worlds
Former Boston University teammates take aim at medal for United Statesby Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Correspondent
COLOGNE, Germany -- Minnesota Wild forward prospect Jordan Greenway just can't seem to escape Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller and Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy.
Greenway, 20, McAvoy, 19 and Keller, 18, skated two years ago as teammates with the United States National Team Development Program, alongside one another at Boston University this season, twice on the international stage in the past five months, and are reunited again at the 2017 IIHF World Championship.
They've understandably grown pretty close.
"We've been together for a while at the national program, BU and World Juniors, now here," Greenway said. "We're a pretty close group. We've done a lot of great things together. We're very close to each other. It's great to be able to share these memories with the kids that are that close to you. It's been good."
They're trying to replicate one memory in particular: Winning a gold medal for the United States, which faces Finland in a quarterfinal game at Lanxess Arena on Thursday (10:15 a.m. ET; NBCSN).
As members of the U.S. team at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, Greenway, Keller and McAvoy struck gold with a 5-4 shootout victory in the tournament final against Canada on Jan. 6.
They have the same goal at the World Championship.
"Oh man, it's always such a blessing for myself every time that USA Hockey asks me to come and play," said McAvoy, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Bruins on April 10 and played in six Stanley Cup Playoff games. "It's always something that perks me up right away. Anytime I get the opportunity to represent my country I don't think twice. It's given me so many amazing things, wearing this jersey. I try to give back when I can.
"To win a second gold medal … it's a little bit presumptuous but we have an amazing team here and we feel really confident in the locker room that we can do this thing."
The United States finished first in Group A after a 5-3 win against Russia on Tuesday. The victory was its sixth straight in the tournament.
Keller, in particular, has stood out at the World Championship. He has seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games and is tied for second on the U.S. in goals with forward Anders Lee (New York Islanders) behind forward Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), who has six.
"It's cool to be with those guys … Charlie and Jordan," said Keller, who played three regular-season games with the Coyotes after signing his entry-level contract March 26. "It's good to have those guys that you're comfortable with. It's nice to have them around. It's great competition and it's great representing your country. It's an unbelievable feeling. Every time you do it is so special. You cherish it."
All three have, with each tournament a unique experience for the group.
The World Juniors, held in Montreal and Toronto, pitted them against the elite among their peers. The World Championship, held here and in Paris, has upped the ante.
"No question," McAvoy said. "Both tournaments kind of bring a bit of a different perspective. The World Juniors in an environment like Canada was a crazy, crazy experience. To win that was incredible. I'll remember that the rest of my life.
"Having this tournament, it's a lot different. The competition is ramped up. It doesn't matter who you're playing against on any given night. You're playing professionals. Everyone brings something different to the table. Some teams are better than others, of course, but every team is competitive and every team has so much pride. From a competition standpoint, I'd say that that playing in this tournament is a little bit harder, for sure."
It's an opportunity Greenway couldn't have imagined five months ago with a gold medal draped around his neck.
"Honestly, after I came out of that tournament I thought I did pretty well," said Greenway, who said he intends to return to Boston University this fall. "Obviously the USA is filled with good NHL players, so no, I didn't think I'd get the opportunity to come to this this year.
"I'm very fortunate. It's an honor that I'm here. I'm trying to take everything I can from it."
The best thing to take from it is a second gold medal, Keller said.
"That's the goal that we set when we got here," he said. "We want to win the gold medal. We think we have the team, the talent, the speed and the skill. I think it'd just be an unbelievable feeling."
at Cologne, Germany
United States vs. Finland, 10:15 a.m. ET; NBCSN
Canada vs. Germany, 2:15 p.m. ET; NHLN
Russia vs. Czech Republic, 10:15 a.m. ET; NHLN
Switzerland vs. Sweden, 2:15 p.m. ET