As Colorado Avalanche rookies report to camp today and prepare to hit the ice this weekend, there are a number of new faces. Wide-eyed youngsters that will be on their way back to junior in a week and putting their NHL dreams on be back-burner for a while. That’s the case for some, but for others like A.J. Greer, the NHL is a lot closer. The 20-year old comes into rookie camp this season looking to take the next step in his development and certainly has an eye for making the NHL full time this season.
An Avs second round pick in 2015, Greer opened some eyes last year, and definitely created some excitement for fans when he became an AHL All-star in his first professional season.
Greer enters this season much further up the depth chart than last year. He is one of a few youngsters that will likely be on the bubble to make the team out of training camp, but judging from what he told Altitude Sports yesterday, he’s not looking at things much differently this year.
“I don’t think there’s anything that different. obviously, last year was my first pro year and it went pretty well...better than expected. I think I have the same mentality coming into camp this year, just doing my best and showing what I have to offer to the Avalanche. I came in last year with the attitude that there’s a possibility I could make that team, it might not have been realistic, but I'm never going to go into a situation and not try my hardest...so just the same mindset this year, this time knowing what it takes.”
With 15 goals and 38 points in his 63 AHL games last season, Greer still has some work to do in order to ever become an offensive threat at the NHL level, but luckily for him, he brings a lot more to a lineup. He is a big power forward that can be used to create time and space for his teammates and it’s a good sign that he definitely knows that he should be focusing on much more than just offense - for now.
“I’m a 200-foot player as well, I think I can gauge pretty well how I play defensively and in the neutral zone. One of my main jobs I like to focus on is those breakout passes, and how we get out of our zone as a winger. It’s my job (to play with a physical edge), it’s how I got here, so I’m not going to change my game. It’s what they’re looking for so I’m going to do my best to serve as the Power Forward that they need.”
He’s right, Greer does bring an element to the ice that the Avs could use. Unfortunately for him, with the acquisition of Colin Wilson and Nail Yakupov, as well as the re-signing of Matt Nieto, the Avalanche have a lot of bodies to fill the bottom-6 winger roles that Greer is best suited for. Though he may play his way onto the team, it’s very likely that he’ll find his way back to San Antonio - at least to start the season.
The good news is that Greer doesn’t sound like a kid that will be negatively impacted by another stint in the AHL. He knows what the end goal is, and if his development needs a little longer to get there, so be it.
“It is a long process and obviously as a young guy - and I think even when you’re not as young - you want that opportunity, you want it right away, you don’t look at the big picture, you look at the moment of fame and you want to get up there are quickly as possible. But when you do look at the big picture, developing down in San Antonio was a great part of my game, and I thought it helped me a lot, just because I was put in different situations. So just being patient and knowing it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Obviously when you want to get up there as quickly as possible, but once you’re there, you want to be able to grasp it and not let it go.”
Greer is one of the good guys in the game. He was named San Antonio’s Man of the Year for his work in the community - in particular, the time he spent in hospitals visiting children. He’s the kind of player Avs fans want to root for and a part of a young prospect pool that gives a glimmer of hope to the franchise.
It sounds like he’s got a very good perspective for a 20-year old, and in the end, wants nothing more than to help the Colorado Avalanche succeed.
“Putting the Avs jersey on, that’s a special feeling for sure”
Here is the complete interview with Altitude Sports: