SUN Hockey Pool

It's decision time

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Matt Greene is a wanted man.

The Edmonton Oilers want to get one of their top prospects into training camp for an up-close look.

But the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux want Greene to stick around, fulfilling his captaincy in his senior season and leading the team to another run at the NCAA Frozen Four title.

That leaves Greene with a tough decision: Turn pro or stay in school.

"I'm registered for classes and I've been working out at UND all year. Right now I'm planning on being there," said Greene, who has suddenly become one of the Oil's most talked-about recruits.

If Oiler fans didn't have a clue about Greene when he was the team's second-round pick in the 2002 draft, they should have a clearer picture now.

Kevin Lowe gave a glowing review on the night he made the deal to bring in Chris Pronger; it was Greene's development that made it possible to make Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka part of the trade.

What Greene learns in his communications courses would be worthwhile in the long run, but in the opinion of the Oilers, another year of college hockey would be a mistake.

PLAYING IN THE NHL

"He's done all he's had to do there and if he went back, he'd lose a year of pro development or even a year of playing in the NHL," said Kevin Prendergast, the Oilers' vice-president of hockey operations.

"It would be a big transition for him, but physically he'd be able to handle it. We wouldn't keep him around to be the sixth or seventh defenceman. He'd play a lot wherever we send him."

All the hullabaloo seems warranted. Greene is a six-foot-three, 215-pounder with good hockey sense and leadership skills. And to boot, a nasty, mean streak that complements his ultra-aggressive style.

"Tall, blond and handsome," offered Greene as a self-portrait, completely in jest.

"Well, maybe I'd better not say that. I'm just a regular stay-at-home defenceman. I'm not flashy. I'm just solid and I like to play physical.

"I love the aggressive part of the game. You always have to play towards your strength. I'm not going to stickhandle around anybody but I've found my niche and if I'm going to play at the next level that's what I'm going to have to do."

The Sioux know what they have in Greene.

"From my perspective, he's very close to playing at the NHL level," said UND head coach Dave Hakstol, who saw his star get 10 points and a whopping 125 penalty minutes last season.

"I'd hate to see anybody give up their senior year unless it's an ideal situation. If that's the situation, obviously our role is to develop guys to get (them) the opportunity to play in the NHL."

While returning to the Sioux seems to be the top priority at the moment, Greene is not for one minute shelving his desire to be in an Oilers uniform in the future.

"It is my dream to play pro hockey," said the 22-year-old. "If the Oilers call I'd definitely be interested in what they have to say. I don't really know if discussions have got that serious -- I'm sort of out of the loop. But if they make an offer, obviously I'd love to hear about it. I haven't heard anything yet, but I'm not too concerned."

CERTAINLY INTRIGUED

All the hype from the Oilers has certainly intrigued Greene, especially the possibility of playing alongside Pronger and captain Jason Smith.

"I look up to the way Smith plays. He's such a competitor," said Greene. "Playing with Pronger would be such an unbelievable opportunity. I would learn things just being around him. Any time you get the chance to skate with guys with that kind of talent and experience, it can only benefit you."


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