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Greenway begins push for NHL job in Traverse City

One of Minnesota's best forwards during the playoffs last spring, rookie aims to make big club out of training camp

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- It would have been easy for Jordan Greenway to coast through a weekend at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. One of the Wild's top young players, he's perhaps the only player here in a Minnesota uniform here this weekend with a chance to make the NHL club out of training camp.

He's the only one to have played in an Olympics and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs during the last seven months. 

Generally speaking, Greenway has little here to prove. 

But he's here proving it anyway.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound power forward has been a monster for the Wild through two games at the tournament, scoring one goal and assisting on two others. But his impact has gone far beyond the boxscore; opponents have struggled to handle his big frame in and around the net. 

In addition to the size and strength expected from a man his size, he's also shown off smooth hands, a burst in his skating stride and even some penalty kill prowess. 

"He's played to his strengths," said Brad Bombardir, the Wild's Director of Player Development. "He's big and he's strong, but he's actually a very intelligent player. You put all those things together and you get a performance like he's had [so far].

"Now the challenge for him will be, now he's playing pro hockey. He's a pro player. There are a lot more games, so the challenge for him is to take care of himself and make sure he's in the best shape he can be."

In that regard, Greenway is coming off a season that mirrored the pro season much more closely than a traditional college signee.

After going through captain's practices at Boston University that began last September, Greenway played a normal college season before traveling to South Korea for the Olympics. He returned, finished the college season, signed with the Wild, finished the regular season and played in the playoffs. 

By the end of the season, Greenway certainly wasn't playing like someone who was out of gas. On the contrary, he was playing perhaps the best hockey of his life. 

Greenway said he took about a month off after the season to rest and heal up before starting his normal training routine. He's come to Traverse City in outstanding shape ready to battle for a roster spot with Minnesota, beginning later this week when training camp gets underway on Friday.

"It showed me how you have to really take care of yourself," Greenway said. "It's a job now, so you have to be thinking about it 24/7, everything you do. I think that was something I focused on in college, but we only played 35 or 40 games."

Last spring, Greenway became the first player in known hockey history to play in an Olympics, an NCAA Tournament and a Stanley Cup Playoffs in the same season. Now, he's playing in his first Traverse City tournament, an unusual order in which to participate, but a path Greenway hopes leads to an NHL roster spot sooner rather than later.

"It's a little different," Greenway said. "Two years ago, I would have never expected that, being able to do all that. But it's been great, all the experiences I've gotten. They've been nothing but the best."

Those experiences have showed Greenway what it takes to succeed at the NHL level. One of his issues early on was bringing a high competitive level from the drop of the opening puck. 

After a quiet NHL debut in Nashville on March 27, Greenway got a little bit better every night out the rest of the way. He played in five more regular season games before the postseason series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Whether it was the intensity of the playoffs or the physical game the Jets played, Greenway took his game to a whole new level in the playoffs. 

Greenway assisted on one goal in six regular season contests but had one goal and one assist in five playoff games, but it was the physical, aggressive Jets that may have brought out the best in the 21-year-old forward.

In Traverse City, Greenway has played with the same physical edge he had in Winnipeg. Opponents have been unable to handle his strength with the puck, which has allowed linemates Ivan Lodnia and Gerry Fitzgerald time to find soft spots in the offensive zone.

Once in prime scoring areas, Greenway has had success finding them. Both Lodnia and Fitzgerald have goals this weekend, and that line has come close to scoring several others. 

"At first, we kind of butted heads together. I'm not used to playing with that strong of a player," Lodnia said. "So you want to be there to support him, but once I realized that he can really do it on his own, we started to give ourselves more room and more space to play the puck and I think that made us more dangerous in the offensive zone."

It's the same traits Greenway is hoping to bring to training camp, and eventually to Minnesota. 

At camp, he is expected to compete with Luke Kunin and Matt Read, amongst a host of others, for perhaps one roster spot on the NHL club. The Wild enters the season with 11 forwards on one-way contracts, a number that doesn't include Joel Eriksson Ek, who is expected to center Minnesota's third line.

And while Greenway's experience last season should certainly help him in his quest to make the big club, he doesn't want to rely on that alone. 

"This is a time for me and everyone else to get better," Greenway said. "I think if I just continue to play my game and stay aggressive, things are going to progress to where I want them to go."


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