The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eight writers and 320 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2018 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
A.J. Greer, the resident tough guy of the Colorado Avalanche talent pool, played in 17 games at the NHL level in the 2017-18. He played college at Boston University and was drafted in the second round in 2015 (a pick acquired in the Ryan O’Reilly trade). Greer is a large, young man — 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds — who will be turning 22 this December.
In his time with the Avalanche last year, Greer played exclusively on the fourth line as a scrappy power forward. Given his role, the numbers were predictably not great. His Corsi for was just 39.9 percent despite playing pretty sheltered minutes (50.7 percent offensive zone start rate). His averaged 7:24 of ice time per game.
Across his 17 contests, Greer didn’t score a goal, tallied three assists, and recorded 30 hits and 13 shots. Perhaps his most memorable moment of the season came on February 16 in Winnipeg, when he received a faceful of fist, courtesy of Dustin Byfuglien.
But that was the role Greer was asked to fill when he played at the NHL level. He shouldn’t be looked upon as a goon just because of how he was utilized last season. Look at Tom Wilson of the Capitals. Same size, similar skillset to A.J. Greer. He broke into the league at a young age and was used almost immediately as a high energy, checking enforcer. This past year, he was elevated to higher role and now he’s a first-liner on a Stanley Cup champion.
While his time with the Avalanche was underwhelming, there’s plenty of evidence to Greer’s upside based on his performance with the Rampage over the last two seasons and with Boston University prior to that.
With the Rampage over the last two games, Greer totalled 51 points in 98 games, a solid scoring output given his limited power play time. On the Terriers prior to that, he scored a less-noteworthy 12 points in 55 career games.
One Boston-area journalist who covered Boston University during Greer's tenure, Marisa Ingemi, called the forward "surprisingly fast" with "good hands around the net."
Avalanche fans should consider Greer's future as a second or third line power forward who can act as a significant net-front presence. He'll never be a major possession driver nor playmaker, but the NHL has a place for players with his kind of size and speed. In 2018-19, Greer will again be a fringe NHL player with an opportunity to earn a full-time spot. He has an attitude and passion for the game (with a potential to get under other teams' skins and undermine them psychologically) that would be much appreciated on the Avs.
I'd like to see Greer get more NHL time this year, but perhaps with some skilled linemates to show the impact he can make as a scrapper in front of the net, getting rebounds and deflections. You can't teach size, and he has a lot of it.