FanPost

Senators Alphabet: G is Greening

G is for Greening, as in Colin Greening, Ottawa’s #14. Greening, who will be 26 years old on Friday, is currently in the middle of his first full season in the NHL and has spent time on all of Ottawa’s four lines, mostly finding himself as a top six forward with Spezza or Turris.

I like Greening. I like his size, strength, and speed. However, like many of Ottawa’s rookie and sophomore wingers, he has slumped in the new year. Which has left me to wonder, what exactly can we expect from the big, speedy winger who is only a couple years younger than Jason Spezza, one of the team’s elder statesmen?

Drafted by the Senators during the Muckler-era, Greening was taken in the seventh round, 204th overall, as a high school player from Upper Canada College in Toronto. In that sense, he’s already been good value for the Sens: he’s played 90 games in the NHL when most players picked that late never see the inside of an NHL dressing room.

From UCC, Greening would go on to play four years at Cornell University (clearly he has some academic chops as well). He never missed a game and served as team captain for his junior and senior years.

Greening is not the first Senator to take the college route but to project a potential career path for Greening, we need to look at the development of other, similar college players who have made the jump to the NHL.

In 2010-11, 30% of NHL players, or 294 in total, had some U.S. College hockey experience before beginning their pro careers. This percentage has increasing steadily since 2000. Many of the most successful players in the post-lockout NHL have developed in the college system: Dany Heatley (Wisconsin), Jonathan Toews (North Dakota), Phil Kessel (Minnesota), Zach Parise (North Dakota), Thomas Vanek (Minnesota), Duncan Keith (Michigan State), Patrick Sharp (Vermont) and Martin St. Louis (Vermont) among others.

To see what kind of player Greening might be as he continues his career in Ottawa, I’ve compared him to forwards of similar size who had similar numbers in college.

First, college numbers:

COLIN GREENING

C/LW 6’3” 211lbs

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2006-07

20

Cornell Big Red

31

11

8

19

2007-08

21

Cornell Big Red

36

14

19

33

2008-09

22

Cornell Big Red

36

15

16

31

2009-10

23

Cornell Big Red

34

15

20

35

DAVID BACKES

C 6'3" 225 lbs

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2003-04

19

Minnesota State

39

16

21

37

2004-05

20

Minnesota State

38

17

23

40

2005-06

21

Minnesota State

38

13

29

42

BLAKE WHEELER

RW 6'5" 205 lbs

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2005-06

19

U of Minnesota

39

9

14

23

2006-07

20

U of Minnesota

44

18

20

38

2007-08

21

U of Minnesota

44

15

20

35

COLIN WILSON

C 6'1" 201 lbs

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2007-08

18

Boston University

37

12

23

35

2008-09

19

Boston University

43

17

38

55

BLAKE GEOFFRION

LW 6'1" 192 lbs

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2006-07

18

U of Wisconsin

36

2

4

6

2007-08

19

U of Wisconsin

36

10

20

30

2008-09

20

U of Wisconsin

35

15

13

28

2009-10

21

U of Wisconsin

40

28

22

50

Based on college performances, Nashville’s Colin Wilson is the most successful of the group. Wilson put together more points in a season than any of these players in college and did it at a much younger age (18 and 19), before leaving to turn pro with the Milwaukee Admirals. Geoffrion’s college career follows a similar path as Greening’s, until his last season, when he exploded with 28 goals, winning the Hobey Baker Award as the best college player in 2010 (I was actually at Ford Field for the Frozen Four Tournament that year when they announced Blake’s win). Perhaps the closest to Greening is Blake Wheeler: the pair put up similar or identical numbers throughout their college career, but Colin always played several fewer games per season.

AHL/NHL numbers:

COLIN GREENING

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2010-11

24

Binghamton Senators

59

15

25

40

2010-11

24

Ottawa Senators

24

6

7

13

2011-12

25

Ottawa Senators

66

12

16

28

DAVID BACKES

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2005-06

21

Peoria Rivermen

12

5

5

10

2006-07

22

Peoria Rivermen

31

10

3

13

2006-07

22

St. Louis Blues

49

10

13

23

2007-08

23

St. Louis Blues

72

13

18

31

2008-09

24

St. Louis Blues

82

31

23

54

2009-10

25

St. Louis Blues

79

17

31

48

2010-11

26

St. Louis Blues

82

31

31

62

2011-12

27

St. Louis Blues

65

19

26

45

BLAKE WHEELER

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2008-09

22

Boston Bruins

81

21

24

45

2009-10

23

Boston Bruins

82

18

20

38

2010-11

24

Boston/Atlanta

81

18

26

44

2011-12

25

Winnipeg

64

14

39

53

COLIN WILSON

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2009-10

20

Milwaukee Admirals

40

13

21

34

2009-10

20

Nashville Predators

35

8

7

15

2010-11

21

Nashville Predators

82

16

18

34

2011-12

22

Nashville Predators

61

15

19

34

BLAKE GEOFFRION

YEAR

AGE

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

2010-11

22

Milwaukee Admirals

45

11

26

37

2010-11

22

Nashville Predators

20

6

2

8

2011-12

23

Nashville/Montreal

24

0

3

3

Again, I think Wheeler is the best comparable. While Wheeler and Greening are the same age, Wheeler is clearly benefitting from his NHL experience (he’s played over 200 games more than Greening has in the NHL). Add to that the opportunity Wheeler has received in Winnipeg because of their lack of depth and injury issues, and he’s having a breakout season (especially in the second half). While Greening often takes the ice with the Spezza and Turris lines, his average TOI is similar to Wheeler’s when he was with Boston. However, Greening still averages three minutes less a game than Wheeler has since joining the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. I haven’t watched that many Jets that many games this year, but when I have Wheeler has been successful using his size in front of the net and creating space and opportunity for talented line mates (Evander Kane). He’s most impressive when using his size and speed to drive the net, fending off defenders all the way. Greening has the size and speed to do this as well. Wilson and Greening have very similar NHL numbers, but because Colin Wilson is three years younger and had an accelerated path to the NHL, his ceiling would seem to be higher. I don’t think Greening will hit Backes’ level. Backes plays first line minutes, is a two-time 30 goal scorer, is on his way to another 20 goal season, and an NHL all-star. As Greening spends more time in the NHL, I think he can reach the 45 point range based on his similar trajectory to Wheeler and similar skill set. One thing to keep in mind as Greening works through this dry spell: everyone I compared him to on this list were much higher ranked and drafted prospects: Wheeler (5th), and Wilson (7th) were first round picks, and Geoffrion (56th), and Backes (62nd), were second round picks. For Greening to even be in the same conversation shows how much ground he covered over his college career and first season in the NHL.


This FanPost was written by a member of the Silver Seven community, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the site managers, editors, or Sports Blogs Nation, Inc.

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