Jordan Greenway wants to be a role model for any young aspiring African-American hockey player working his way up the development ladder.
His own path included stops at prep school powerhouse Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota, USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, Boston University and several international tournaments with USA Hockey. He won a gold medal with the United States at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship and represented his country at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, before finally realizing his dream as an NHL rookie with the Minnesota Wild this season.
"It's hard to build your confidence when you're in this league because you're playing against guys you grew up watching every single day," Greenway said. "You have to have the mentality of, 'I belong here and can do a lot of good things and dominate.' It was something I struggled with last year and, to this day, it's a lesson that I drill into my head. Confidence is such a big thing."
The 22-year-old left wing (6-foot-6, 227 pounds) ranks 17th among NHL rookies with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 57 games this season. He is averaging 13:05 of ice time.
Video: CBJ@MIN: Greenway, Staal team up to open scoring
Greenway, chosen in the second round (No. 50) in the 2015 NHL Draft, played three seasons at Boston University in Hockey East under current New York Rangers coach David Quinn. He had 92 points (28 goals, 64 assists) in 112 NCAA games before signing his entry-level contract with the Wild on March 26, 2018.
He had one assist in six regular-season games and two points (one goal, one assist) in five Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Wild last season.
If his college career is any indication, Greenway should begin hitting his stride by the middle of next season.
"It was in his second season at Boston University when he really began to understand how much he could dominate using his size and strength," said David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting. "He has a lot of skill, can skate well and that's when he started to be a force and someone that was tough to contain every shift. You thought something would happen every time you watched him."
Greenway's production increased in each of his three seasons with BU. He had 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) as a freshman, 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) as a sophomore, and 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) as a junior, when BU won the 2018 Hockey East championship and advanced to the NCAA Northeast Regional Final.
"Right from the start, [Quinn] put me in a situation that gave me confidence even though he knew I was going to make mistakes," Greenway said. "Every day in practice he was hard on me and always made sure I was giving 100 percent. He's a coach I was able to approach all the time and ask for help if I needed it.
"He always made sure I was doing the right thing but gave me minutes in big situations as a freshman and that gave me confidence."
Greenway has come to realize consistency is the most difficult thing to master in the NHL.
"I do want to have an impact every night, if not 10 out of 10 times than eight out of 10 times and not just five out of 10," Greenway said. "Being sent down to Iowa in the American Hockey League earlier this season was an eye-opener, but it was good for me. The staff here wanted me to build my confidence and I believe I was able to do that."
Video: MIN@OTT: Greenway jams in own rebound while falling
Greenway had three goals and one assist in two games for Iowa before being recalled on Oct. 28.
"He a big, strong body and knows how to make plays," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's going to score 25 in this League, maybe as early as next season."
Greenway was a projected second-round pick in the 2015 draft after being ranked No. 47 in NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters.
"He showed us that he was capable of putting up big numbers," Gregory said. "When he's able to get down low with puck possession and find that open man, that's his game and that's how he'll be productive. He can do that at any level with how big and strong he is."
Greenway will forever be grateful for the opportunity as the first black hockey player to represent the United States at the Winter Olympics. He scored one goal in five tournament games for the United States, which finished seventh out of 12 countries in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
"It's something I'll always have with me my whole life," Greenway said. "I don't think it's hit me yet as much as it will down the road but it's definitely something I'll look back on as very special.
"I've been able to accomplish a lot of good things and just allowing a lot of African-American kids who are younger than me who see kind of what I'm doing, I hope that can be an inspiration for them."