Jordan Greenway would be studying psychology right about now if he had decided to return to Boston University for his senior year.
Instead, the forward is enrolled in his first Wild training camp after leaving school to turn pro last season — a short stint in the NHL that validated the hype that has surrounded the 21-year-old since the organization added him three years ago.
The experience also suggested that Greenway would be ready to be a full-time member of the Wild in 2018-19, and although coach Bruce Boudreau has called a roster spot Greenway’s to lose, Greenway isn’t expecting a job to be gift-wrapped for him.
He realizes he’ll have to earn it, and show team brass that he still believes in his ability to make a difference on the ice even though the competition is tougher.
“I gotta show that I’m confident,” Greenway said. “I gotta know that I should be here. I want the puck. I’m going to come out here and have the same impact that I did in college and previous years. That’s kind of my focus right now, having the confidence to go out and honestly just play my game.”
This challenge could have been Greenway’s reality a year ago.
A second-round draft pick by the Wild in 2015, Greenway could have turned pro after his sophomore season at Boston University. Instead, he remained with the Terriers.
After scoring 10 goals and racking up 31 points in 37 games, Greenway didn’t feel he was as dominant as he should have been in his second year. So he returned to Boston with the objective of emerging as the best player on the ice each game — pressure he believes improved his play. In 36 games during his junior season, he posted 13 goals and 35 points.
Staying in school also allowed Greenway to skate in the Olympics earlier this year; he had a goal in five games with Team USA before resuming his college career. And once the Terriers were eliminated in the NCAA Northeast Regional final, Greenway finally joined the Wild — a milestone he feels came at just the right time.
“If I would have come out of college a year before I did,” Greenway said, “I don’t think I would have been ready. I don’t think I would have come in and had an impact.”
And that’s exactly what happened in the playoffs last season.
At 6 feet, 6 inches and 226 pounds, Greenway used his size and strength to be a pest in the Jets’ zone before the Wild was eliminated in five games. He scored his first career goal in the series and added an assist, this after he also tallied an assist in six regular-season games.
“He doesn’t even know how good he is,” said forward Charlie Coyle, who played alongside Greenway.
When Greenway debuted March 27 in Nashville against the Predators, he was sharing the ice with players he grew up watching — such as defenseman P.K. Subban.
“I used to think these guys were gods,” Greenway said. “Now I’m lining up against them. Sometimes you have the puck and you almost tell yourself, ‘I can’t beat them. Just give it to them.’ So you gotta find a way to get over that.”
Carting the confidence from college or juniors to the NHL isn’t necessarily easy — a process for Greenway that is being coaxed along by the Wild.
“He’s the biggest guy on the ice most nights, and he’s so powerful,” said Coyle, who skated with Greenway in the summer in Boston and has been one of his linemates in camp — along with Joel Eriksson Ek. “He’s so good. He’s so skilled for a bigger guy, and I think once he learns that and once we talk to him more … if we can get him to gain that confidence and just be able to play his game and not worry about, ‘Well, I’m the young guy or I’m this, that, the rookie,’ he’s going to be huge for us.”
Establishing himself like that is Greenway’s next step.
What should help him accomplish that is the journey he’s taken so far, preparation Greenway believes has transpired the way it was supposed to for him to be where he is now — with the expectation he’ll be with the Wild when the season starts.
“Every time I come out on the ice with these guys, whether it’s a practice or a scrimmage, I think my confidence continues to improve,” Greenway said. “I think by the time camp’s over and preseason’s done with, I think I’ll be ready to go.”