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Photo: Darren AbatePhoto: Darren Abate

#AHLOTB: Different paths to the same line

By Lorne Chan | AHL On The Beat

J.T. Compher was at the top of college hockey a year ago, living out a dream as team captain at the University of Michigan. At the same time, A.J. Greer was making an abrupt exit from college hockey.

Compher led Michigan to a Big Ten Championship and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top college player. Greer left Boston University in December for Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he helped lead the team to a league championship and Memorial Cup appearance.

Now, they find themselves thriving on the same line for the San Antonio Rampage after taking different routes to Texas.

Greer, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound left wing, is currently tied for the AHL lead in rookie scoring with nine points. Compher is tied for the AHL rookie lead with four goals and has six points.

“Hockey players have a lot of different options now, and they all work differently for everybody,” said Greer. “I took the opportunity I was given and tried to make the most of it.”

Greer had enrolled at Boston University as a 17-year-old in 2014-15 and was the youngest forward in NCAA hockey at the time. Playing next to Jack Eichel, BU reached the Frozen Four.

The following season, Greer felt the need for a change of scenery. He left Boston after 18 games and joined the QMJHL, scoring 27 points in 33 regular-season games for Rouyn, and 22 points in 20 playoff games as the team claimed the President’s Cup.

“It was a really tough decision for me to leave college hockey,” said Greer. “The toughest part was leaving my teammates behind. But I had to do what was best for my career. I had to look forward and not look back.”

Meanwhile, Compher, a 5-11, 195-pound center, was having the time of his life playing college hockey. As part of Michigan’s “CCM Line” with Blackhawks forward Tyler Motte and Jets forward Kyle Connor, the trio was the highest-scoring line in NCAA hockey for 2015-16. Compher had 16 goals and led the NCAA with 47 assists as Michigan reached the NCAA Regional Final. The entire line also earned spots on Team USA in the 2016 IIHF World Championship in May to cap their time playing together.

For Compher, wearing maize and blue was always going to be part of his hockey journey. He committed to the Wolverines three years early, and said being a captain was always a dream for him.

“I think college hockey prepares you well,” said Compher. “There are a lot of examples of guys who have translated well from college hockey to the NHL. It’s been a fun adjustment.”

Regardless of where they were before, both Greer and Compher have made smooth transitions to pro hockey. Greer is still just 19, and currently has a six-game assist streak to tie a Rampage rookie record. If he records an assist in his next game, he’ll tie a franchise record currently held by Ben Street and Drew Shore.

Compher leads the Rampage with four goals on the season, recording a point in all three Rampage wins so far. Greer and Compher have been playing together on a line with Rocco Grimaldi in recent games, a combination that seems to be paying dividends.

“We seem to bring a little bit of everything to the table,” said Greer. “Physicality, speed or quickness, I think the line’s working out.”

The journey may have been different for A.J. Greer and J.T. Compher, but so far this season, the destination has been the back of the net.