Top 25 Under 25, no. 24: Derek Grant
There have been a few drafts in the 20-year history of the Senators in which almost all of the players selected have gone on to play a role in the franchise. 2008 is shaping out to be one such instance. Trading up for the 15th overall pick, Ottawa drafted Erik Karlsson, and he has been... okay. The Sens went on to take Patrick Wiercioch, overager Zack Smith, Andre Petersson, Mark Borowiecki and Emil Sandin, who may not fit the mould. Having already taken Petersson in the fourth round, Murray and his draft team turned to a tall centreman and a point-per-game player in the BCHL, Derek Grant.
Some high-level prospects have emerged from the fourth round of the '08 draft. TJ Brodie, selected four ahead of Grant, has made the transition to full-time NHLer with the Calgary Flames this season. Meanwhile Gustav Nyquist, the last pick of the round, turned an outstanding amateur career with the University of Maine into a point-per-game output with the Red Wings' AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.
From the BCHL to Michigan State University, Grant consistently hovered around the point-per-game mark, save one season--in his second BCHL campaign, he recorded 60 in 35. Grant was a healthy scratch a few weeks ago while his Binghamton Senators were riding one of their best winning streaks of the season (a healthy three games), which did not pay much compliment to his offense. Coach Kleinendorst saw fit to put him back in the lineup the following weekend, and Grant put up a point in his return.
When the Senators signed Grant to an entry level contract, Tim Murray had this to say about the Michigan State product:
Murray describes the native of Langley, B.C., as a "finesse, smart offensive winger" who "sees the ice very well and handles the puck very well."
-Rob Brodie, Ottawa Senators (emphasis added)Corey Pronman, in his terrific top ten prospect lists of all the teams around the league, had some interesting commentary on Grant. Before he turned pro at the end of last year, and chipped in an overtime winner in Binghamton's comeback against the Manchester Monarchs, Grant was a relative unknown. This write-up helped to boost his stock, as Pronman slotted the 21 year-old fourth round pick in as the eighth best prospect in the Senators' system, writing:
Grant is a decent skater who doesn't really show a dangerous top speed, but moves pretty well in a straight line for a 6'3" forward. He's a solid distributor who can move the puck around at a fair level and is quite coordinated. He's not a flashy handler or distributor, but he just consistently makes the right, smart plays and rarely turns the puck over. Grant projects as an above-average to plus physical player as he's quite effective along the walls and in front of the net. He wins a good portion of his battles and he has the frame to be a force in front of the net on the power play. Grant plays a notable defensive game and his reads in that regard are impressive.
-Corey Pronman, Puck Prospectus (emphasis added)
A forward with a decent defensive game, no overwhelming offensive skill-set, but who succeeds based on the quality of his puck possession, decision-making and overall hockey intelligence? Not to draw a direct comparison, as the two are very different statures and make their presence felt in different manners, but that sounds a lot like a player currently on the Senators roster: Erik Condra. Granted (pardon the terrible pun), Condra put up slightly higher points, in college with Notre Dame.
Here are their respective numbers with the B-Sens in their first seasons:
Comparables can go too far in trying to assess a player's future, but this one has a little merit. Grant's ceiling in the NHL would seem to be somewhat of a hybrid of Condra and Colin Greening: Big, good speed in straight lines, good decision-making, well-tuned offensive instincts, and a solid defensive awareness. Condra's second season saw his output increase to 47P in 55GP.
Grant has recognized potential to become a legitimate NHL player down the road, maybe even a second-liner if his development goes well--but he's still got work to do, and remains a bit of a project prospect. Ottawa has a crowded group ready to fight for those bottom six positions, and Grant needs to continue the steady improvement he's shown throughout his career to stay in the thick of the fight.