BUFFALO – Sabres coach Don Granato and newcomer Jordan Greenway go back nearly 10 years, to their days together at the U.S. National Team Development program.
Having coached Greenway as a teenager, Granato has a unique understanding of the 6-foot-6, 231-pound winger’s skill set and potential.
“There’s lots of players in the league I’m very familiar with and coached,” Granato said of Greenway, who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild prior to Friday’s trade deadline. “And you know the players. You learn them. But the players that you had before they came into the NHL, you get to see them completely different.”
That’s one reason why Greenway, 26, could enjoy a different, more prominent role when he joins the Sabres. Weather-related travel delays kept him from making it to Buffalo for Saturday afternoon’s 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at KeyBank Center.
After sending the Wild second- and fifth-round draft picks, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said Granato vouched for Greenway and said “there is more to this player.”
“He is a high-character person, very good athlete, a great teammate and somebody that we’re excited to work with as well because he has a lot of potential,” Granato said prior to the game.
Granato said Greenway, who will wear No. 12, will kill penalties and eventually earn time on the power play. He expects the Canton native will evolve and showcase growth, much like when the Sabres acquired winger Alex Tuch last season.
While Granato had never coached Tuch, he knew him from the NTDP. Tuch, 26, has developed into a star this season, scoring 28 goals and 62 points in 57 games.
“You’re acquiring a talent that you know that can do more, and they’re at the right spot of their career,” Granato said. “They’ve had a base of experience and much like I knew Tuch, I mean, there was a lot more in Alex Tuch. This is case with Jordan.
“I watched these guys when they were very young and saw their base of talent and developed an appreciation for where their potential is.”
Greenway’s hulking size and physicality offer the Sabres a missing element and an intriguing talent. He has never scored more than 12 goals or 27 points in a season. Still, Granato said teammates want to play on his line.
“He has a significant physical presence in the game,” he said. “You can’t not notice him because he’s a big man that’s willing to play that big man type of game. He’s strong net-front, he’s strong behind the net, below the goal line, taking pucks to the net. He has very good speed, so he can keep up with the pace that we want to play at without any issue whatsoever because he’s such a good athlete.
“When he’s on the ice, and even when there’s a scrum, you know he’s on the ice.”
Leading up to the deadline, Granato did not sound very keen on the idea of the Sabres making a big move and giving up assets.
“I don’t think we’re going to sweat anything that didn’t happen yesterday,” he said of a major trade at the deadline. “There’s no reason to. And I’m actually excited. Everybody is trying to make moves and spending, spending, spending to do it, spending their future, because our future, we feel, is pretty darn bright and strong.”