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With All The Tools, Wild Likes Greenway's Prospects

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

There's a learning curve that millions of college freshman face every fall, stepping onto a new campus and beginning the journey into adulthood.

For Jordan Greenway, the objective was steep, but one that Boston University and the Minnesota Wild felt was attainable: Learn how to be dominant.

At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, an 18-year-old Greenway looked more the part of NHL power forward than college freshman.

The former is what the Wild is hoping its 2015 second-round pick transforms into. The latter is how Greenway arrived for his first year at BU, with all the raw ingredients the Wild feels writes the recipe a productive NHL forward.

"That's why we drafted him," Wild Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr said. "It's just adapting to the pace of games, and dominating. He has the size, the speed, the skill level to dominate games, and he's learning to do that."

It's not entirely unlike the transition most 18-year-old students are going through. Like one adapts to the pace of a class schedule, Greenway was learning to keep up with the speed of Hockey East, one of the most competitive conferences in the NCAA.

"His skating and his pace of play really improved," BU coach David Quinn said after his Terriers lost on Saturday, ending their season. "His physical play improved. He loves the game. The one thing I know is he'll put the effort in to get better."

And like many freshman, there were growing pains for the overgrown rookie collegiate. In his first 13 games of the season, Greenway had two assists. Over the next 26 games, he had five goals and 19 assists, nearly a point per-game player.

"I started slow, but I kept working hard, and trying to get used to the pace of the game," Greenway said. "Just trying to use my feet more and use my body as an asset. For the most part that's what I learned to do most of this year."

Greenway went from a big fish in relatively smaller ponds to a big fish in a pond filled with other fish capable of bumping gills with him.

"It's a learning curve; college hockey is a big jump," Flahr said. "He's playing against a lot of older players now, but with his size and his abilities he's been able to handle it, and have success."

And like many other college freshman, Greenway was attempting to establish his identity. There was no disagreement though: Greenway was sculpted to be a power forward.

"He's got great hands, and he can make plays, but a guy that size, you have to take pucks to the net, you have to look at the net-front, you have to get pucks to the net and surprise people," Quinn said. "He's not quite there yet, but he'll work at it."

There's a complex that comes with being a power forward that puts the body through the on-ice paces, going to certain areas around the goal, being physical in corners, and creating space by using one's frame.

"For the most part, I don’t think I had as many assists in the beginning just due to, I didn't really use my body as much as I should have," Greenway said. "I didn't shoot as much as I should have. I didn't get pucks to the net, and I wasn't getting to the front of the net enough. Just everything a power forward has to do in order to get chances, and get on the score sheet.

"I focused on that, and getting in that routine to find a way to play more of a power-forward type game. Eventually it came."

Greenway has the skating ability and skill to support a finesse game. But towering over most of his opponents, simpler can be more effective.

"He's a freakish athlete for that size," Quinn said. "As he continues to learn how to play down low, and be more elusive, and take more pucks to the net, the one thing he has to do is he has to have more of a goal-scorer's mentality."

In Quinn, the Wild has an intermediary to Greenway, a proven coach in prepping amateur level players for the next level.

The immediate name that jumps out is 2015 number two pick Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres. A former draft pick of the Minnesota North Stars, Quinn has also coached the likes of Phil Kessel, Erik Johnson, Patrick Kane, and the Wild's Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker.

"We're very fortunate to have him there, and he's in good hands," Flahr said. "Coach Quinn there is hard on him. At the same time, he communicates daily, and has high expectations for him. He's playing him a ton, and playing him in all situations as a freshman and a young player.

"It's exciting to see, and he should only get better."

The Wild knows what it sees in Greenway, and can picture that frame and that skillset translating well at the NHL-level.

"He understands the way he's going to have to play, he's embracing it more and more, and there are things he has to work on," Quinn said. "He's got a great future."

It's not something Greenway is fixated on: the day-to-day is more his concern. He just finished his freshman season with Boston University losing in an NCAA Tournament West Regional semifinal to Denver on Saturday.

The game was played at Xcel Energy Center, an arena Greenway hopes to call home in the future.

"You look around our (NHL) group of forwards and we don't have many players like him," Flahr said. "He's an exciting guy that, hopefully in a couple of years can step in and contribute."

When that happens is still to be determined. After all, Greenway turned 19 in February, and though he may not have much more growing to do, the Wild and Quinn both see a lot of growth left for an already steady foundation.

"He's a heck of a prospect, and he's a steal in the second round for sure," Quinn said. "He's going to keep working at it, and he's growing up.

"He's 19 now, but you look at his size, and sometimes people forget that he's 19, and not 25. He'll put the effort in. I'm really happy with the way his season ended, and his future is incredibly bright."

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