Jonathan Gruden was a regular with two other top prospects in this draft class before wonder kid and 2019 draft eligible Jack Hughes showed up.
Given that time with Oliver Wahlstrom and Joel Farabee, there have been some suggestions that his points totals this season were inflated. But Gruden is an extremely skilled and talented forward that could be a sleeper in this draft class.
Asked to play more of a depth role with the arrival of Hughes, Gruden made himself noticeable in other ways through his work ethic and puck skills. Combine that with some really encouraging underlying numbers and Gruden lands as the 38th best prospect in this draft class.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.37/ May 4, 2000
- Birthplace: Rochester, MI, USA
- Frame:6-foot-0/ 172 lbs
- Position: Left Wing
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: USNTDP Juniors(USHL)
- International Silverstick Bantam AAA All-Star
- YOG Gold Medal
- U18 WJC Silver Medal
Gruden was selected by the London Knights in the 5th round of the 2016 OHL Priority Selection draft before he headed to the USNTDP Team. He had already committed to Miami University (Ohio) in 2015 and thus continued on that path through the National Team Development Program.
After committing so long ago, Gruden will finally head to the NCAA this upcoming fall.
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He shows extremely well in almost all of the categories with the only concerns being his shots per game and estimated time on ice. The latter of the top can be explained due to his role being lessened in the second half of the year.
His GF% and GFREL% are through the roof good and shows that he was a two-way player who generated offence at an impressive rate but also suppressed opponents. In the 25 games against USHL competition, he was on the ice for 10 goals against and 33 goals for to give him a +23 goal differential.
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
With the exception of Ty Emberson and Trevor Janicke, Gruden made each one of his linemates better in terms of GF% WOWY. He did see some time with Jack Hughes at 5v5 as Gruden moved up and down the lineup filling a variety of roles for the club.
In terms of 5v5 eP60, he outproduced everyone except Jack Wise, with the ice time that was afforded to him.
Lastly, he saw consistent production and involvement in his team’s offence throughout the entire year. No major spikes or drops despite seeing an adjustment in his role.
There is a decent success rate among cohorts of 28.0% when looking at the games played against USHL teams. The expected production of 65.4 points per 60 is really good.
Ideally, that 28% would be higher but there are some good names in that success and once those comparables reached the NHL, they produced.
I’ll just come out and say that I am a big fan of Gruden’s game.
Prior to having access to the full data set that is provided by Jeremy Davis, I ranked Gruden as the 42nd best prospect in this draft class. Obviously, landing in 38th means that other writers here had him ranked higher and I would be inclined to raise his stock if we were adjusting our lists. I had him ranked at 42 solely based on the limited sample of data that I had in early May and the good old eye test.
Those suggestions about his offence being tied to Wahlstrom and Farabee are valid to some degree as those players are first round talent players but I think that Gruden isn’t that far off. It is important to point out that he isn’t a dominating force offensively and is why he falls lower than those two (and another USNTDP player) in our draft rankings. He would just make the smart and high percentage plays to help those other players look better.
On the offensive side of the game, Gruden has great vision and puck moving abilities that allow his passes to fit between seems in coverage and give the receiver plenty of time to attack as they see fit. He is very agile and quick on his feet that allows him to elude coverage easily.
His shot isn’t fantastic and is reliant on wrist shots – but he is patient with the puck that allows him to create a lane or screen so that it’s still able to beat goalies.
The Rochester native is able to create offence in a multitude of ways and is balanced enough that it can be hard to contain him when he is on the attack.
Gruden is relentless in his puck pursuit and skating, constantly keeping his feet moving. He appears to have limitless energy and uses that to be effective in all three zones. He isn’t ‘gritty’ per say, but annoying on his opponents, not going for the big hit but being more of a constant nuisance on the ice.
As evidenced by his slightly moving down the lineup as the season went on, he can fill any role that is given to him and is effective. If you want him to be a two-way forward who suppresses the other teams attack, he’ll do it, or if you want him to be the centreman to two offensive wingers, he’ll produce. Normally a player getting a lesser role as the season wears on is concerning, but given who replaced him and Gruden’s static production in 5v5 p60, that isn’t a concern here.
He does need to add some more strength as he measures in around 175 lbs – but that will come naturally over the next few years.
Gruden was overshadowed by some of the other players on his team but his versatility and ability to produce at a really high rate makes him worthy of a player to target. If he is sitting on the board in the later parts of the second round, you better believe I am advocating someone take him.
Based on his skill set, he could end up just being a bottom six centre but there is a ceiling that suggests that he can be your 200-foot centreman who moves up and down the lineup filling every role that the coach asks of him and does so extremely effectively.
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From Future Considerations
An offensive winger, his skating is quick and efficient. He has a nice stride that allows him to cover the ice with great energy. He displays impressive zip and creativity. His skillset in the offensive zone is intriguing. Elusive hands and intense agility allow him to change direction and circle his opponents, creating space and generating scoring chances. He is an exceptional presence in the offensive zone and on both special teams. He’s got a hard-nosed mentality, not afraid to drive to the net, with or without the puck. He can contribute no matter where he is – flying in off the rush or stationed in the slot. He also likes to play in the trenches. With his bite and touch and sense, he manages to create plenty of space for himself and his teammates. Occasionally, he gets caught trying to do too much, but, according to one scout, this is easily remedied. In the defensive zone, he takes care of his responsibilities with heart and urgency. He’s reliable, but also very eager to counterattack. He competes hard on puck in his own zone. He is a talented forward, who has the potential to fill any role, including go-to guy in an offensive set. Dynamic skill alone separates him from the pack. To boot, he owns a solid work ethic and blue-collar tendencies. A straight-line player and very solid all around.
CanucksArmy’s 2018 NHL Draft Rankings