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2024 NHL Draft prospect profile: Liam Greentree is not your basic power forward

Credit: Tim Cornett / OHL Images

Size is something that remains quite coveted in today’s NHL. There is an ongoing debate among fans about just how important it is – some feel it is paramount to success, while others will point to the multitude of shorter players who have been overlooked due to their size and succeeded anyway. This debate, it seems, is destined to go on for eternity.

But for anyone coveting size but wanting more than just a big body, may I introduce you to Liam Greentree, a power forward who brings a little more to the table than just his large frame.

Birthplace: Oshawa, Ontario
Date of birth: January 1, 2006
Shoots: Left
Position: Right Wing
Height: 6′2″
Weight: 198 lbs.
Team: Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Greentree was a second-round pick for the Windsor Spitfires in the 2022 OHL priority selection, and burst onto the scene the very next season as a rookie with 25 goals and 41 points in 61 games. The top goal-scorer among rookies, and top five in points, he made some teams look silly for letting him slide into the second round of that selection.

He followed that up with an eye-popping 90 points (36G, 54A) through 64 games in his sophomore campaign, doing so on a Spitfires team that only won 18 games and missed the playoffs. He didn’t just improve on that impressive rookie season, he put himself firmly on first-round NHL draft boards in the process, and did so without much in the way of a supporting cast.

The first thing you need to know about Greentree’s game is that he is a literal tree out there. Very difficult to move off the puck, he was able to bully his way through the OHL last season. Opposing teams would often have two or even three players trying to check him, and he could still make something happen. Whether or not you think size is over-valued in today’s NHL, there is no denying that it is an asset when used properly, and Greentree does that well. He’ll draw in defenders for contact he knows he can handle, and use that as an opportunity to make a play around them for one of his teammates.

He is significantly more mobile than a literal tree, but skating is the primary reason he isn’t currently higher on NHL draft boards. He looks almost like he isn’t used to his size, with an awkward stride and some choppy starts that limit his agility. His size helps him overcome these deficiencies in Junior, but that advantage will be a lot smaller for him in the professional ranks, and he’ll want to make some improvements in order to reach his ceiling.

His shot has elite velocity, and presented quite the problem for goaltenders at the OHL level. The one thing that seems to be lacking in his shot, however, is deception at the release point. He’ll need to work on changing his angles on release to challenge professional defenders and goaltenders, though his sheer velocity will likely provide him a larger margin for error than most in his class.

Mitch Brown & Lassi Alanen

His shot is simply a complement to his primary focus in the offensive zone: some excellent playmaking. He has better hands than you’d expect from someone constantly labelled as a power forward, great vision, and he plays well off his teammates on the rush to create chances. There just isn’t a good way to defend him in the offensive zone, as his dual-threat ability and solid instincts will enable him to find a way to hurt you.

Defensively, however, he has a tendency to come to a standstill and wait for breakouts to develop. When they don’t, this puts him in some bad positions in trying to help mop up a failed zone exit. When he has the puck coming out of his zone, he seems aware that he doesn’t have the wheels to carry the puck himself, so he prefers to pass. Since he relies heavily on making an outlet pass over carrying it, he is prone to some poor decisions that can lead to turnovers and chances against. He’ll need to work on having a better off-puck compete level, and ideally gaining a little more quickness so that he can carry the puck out more confidently when the opportunity arises.

Projecting a player like Greentree is tough, because with some improvements to his skating, he should be a lock for a top-six spot in the NHL one day thanks to pro-ready size and offensive skills. The size and skill should give him an NHL shot at some point, but he may fizzle out as a depth forward if he can’t gain a step or two before he gets his chance.

Preliminary Rankings

Dobber Prospects: #13
Elite Prospects: #15
FCHockey: #14
Hockey Prospect: #15
Hadi Kalakeche: #10
McKeen’s: #13
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #17
NHL Central Scouting: #14 (North American skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): #23
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #19

As it stands, preliminary rankings have him going anywhere from the tail-end of the top 10, all the way into the mid-20s. With NHL teams always looking for ways to get bigger it is hard seeing him slipping too far, and he’ll likely land somewhere in the mid-to-late teens. Were he a step or two quicker with his skating, we’d probably be talking about a lock to go in the top 10, maybe even the top five. Perhaps there is a team out there willing to take a risk and bet on him adding that step before they need him to make the jump to the show.

It would be a pretty significant reach for the Montreal Canadiens to take Greentree at fifth-overall, and the likelihood of him being there for their late first isn’t great. If they like him, they may need to move up a little from that 26 spot they acquired from Winnipeg in the Sean Monahan trade. That said, they may not have to move up that far, as some scouts believe he could be around in the early 20s due in part to the concern around his skating abilities.

Of course, Montreal knows a certain Joshua Roy, who overcame some concerns about his own skating to become a legitimate top-six candidate in his own right. Development will be key, but it can be done.

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