J.D. Greenway Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

J.D. Greenway will be cast under the spotlight for the University of Maine men’s hockey team.

The University of Wisconsin transfer, a third-round draft pick of the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, will be a key cog along the blue line. The Black Bears lost five of their seven defensemen to graduation or pro hockey.

Greenway is embracing the challenge.

“I want to prove to myself that I’m a good player and I deserve to be here,” said Greenway, whose brother Jordan played at Boston University and is now with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.

“As for the team, I want us to go as far as we can. With the group of guys we have, we can make a strong push this season.”

Greenway posted three goals and seven assists in 46 games over two seasons at Wisconsin before playing in the United States Hockey League last season.

He said choosing UMaine was easy once he spoke to coach Red Gendron and the staff.

“Coach Red and the staff have developed so many great players. To have them coaching me, I’ll be going in the right direction,” Greenway said.

According to Gendron and Greenway’s teammates, the 6-foot-5, 212-pound native of Canton, New York, can be a difference-maker.

“He’s a special player,” junior Eduards Tralmaks said. “His hands are at a different level. He is real good with the puck.”

“He’s a big body, and he’s going to be tough in front of the net,” junior goalie Jeremy Swayman said.

The offensive component to his game could be especially valuable since the Black Bears lost all five of their highest-scoring defensemen.

“I like to be creative on the ice. It has always been in my game,” Greenway said.

Greenway tallied nine goals and 24 assists in 58 regular-season games for Dubuque last season. He added two goals and two assists in five playoff games.

“I expect him to be an integral part of our defense on both sides of the puck,” Gendron said. “He’s the kind of defenseman who can play physical and do a great job in our end, and he’ll also contribute offensively. He has a big shot and great feet.”

Gendron said Greenway’s two years of college hockey experience should benefit the Black Bears.

“You can’t teach experience,” Gendron said.

Greenway preferred not to discuss his reasons for leaving Wisconsin but said his year in the USHL was productive. That move enabled him transfer to UMaine and be eligible to play immediately.

“I developed more [in the USHL]. I played harder. I wanted to prove myself,” Greenway said.

He said he does not feel any added pressure because he has joined a team lacking in defensive experience.

“If I don’t get scored upon, if I win puck battles and make plays consistently throughout the game, then I’m having a good game,” Greenway said.

The 21-year-old Greenway said his transition to UMaine has been a smooth one, but said it is like being a freshman again as he is living in a freshman dorm.

“I don’t have to show them the ropes or anything. We’re all at a new school, and we’re all taking it one day at a time,” Greenway said.

“He will bring some leadership to the young guys on defense,” UMaine junior Jack Quinlivan said.

Greenway will debut in his No. 18 UMaine jersey at 4 p.m. Saturday when the Black Bears open the season with a Hockey East game at Providence College.

UMaine then turns around and plays a 4 p.m. Sunday exhibition game against defending Canadian national champion the University of New Brunswick.