Many of us remember the heart-to-heart talk that Jordan Greenway and GM Bill Guerin had in post-season exit interviews after the 2019-20 season. Guerin made it clear that he needed more from his young power forward in terms of consistency, professionalism, and contribution to the team as a whole.
Considering the “Big Rig” was coming off the most disappointing season of his young NHL career thus far, the pandemic-shortened 2021 season needed to be a big one for him.
Overall, it was a respectable and improved performance from Greenway as he posted a career high 26 assists and 32 points in 56 games last season. He was also much more notable from a viewer’s perspective, asserting his 6’6 frame wherever he could to slow down opponents and create scoring chances for his linemates, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno.
However, there is still more to be desired from Greenway in terms of season-long consistency and an assertiveness to shoot the puck more often.
In the first half of the season, Greenway seemed to have found the consistency that he was looking for on the ice. In the second half, unfortunately, it became harder to notice his presence from a physical standpoint, which coincided with a decrease in production.
If we see the first-half Greenway for three-quarters of an 82-game season in 2021-22, I’m willing to bet the results would be very positive.
The biggest factor that could work in his favor next season is the Wild’s need for someone to fill a top-six winger spot.
Notably, Marcus Johansson spent most of the time he was healthy playing with Kevin Fiala and either Ryan Hartman or Victor Rask on what could be considered the Wild’s second scoring line. With Johansson out of the picture for next season and the Wild needing to save cap space however they can, Greenway may be relied upon to fill that hole.
Barring any trades before the Wild’s training camp kicks off in September, Greenway and Matt Boldy will be the two most likely candidates to get an opportunity to grab the vacant roster spot.
Guerin and Head Coach Dean Evason have made it clear that they won’t giftwrap roster spots to young players just because they were first-round picks. They will need to earn it in training camp by making themselves stand out from the pack.
There is also the possibility that they experiment with other players on the roster to fill that spot in order to keep the GREEF line together next season.
Regardless, Greenway has the odds stacked in his favor if he is able to impress in training camp and the coaching staff sees him as a good fit in a scoring-line role.
Power play minutes are possible as well. He could be used effectively as an eclipse in front of opposing goaltenders, making it a nightmare to track where the puck is coming from.
It is also fair to question if Greenway still even has top six scoring upside, heading into a season in which he will turn 25.
We’ve seen flashes of brilliance, but now we need to see it all put together.
Time is definitely running out to see if the “Big Rig” is able to become a legitimate scoring threat in the NHL.
If he does, I think next season is when we will see it happen.