Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2018 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.
Despite mainly playing on the second line, Jon Gruden put up impressive numbers for the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Squad. While some of the other US NTDP forwards got the headlines, Gruden just kept chipping in key secondary scoring. He scored 28 goals and 32 assists for 60 points in 61 games this season.
Gruden has represented the United States on a number of occasions. As a 16-year-old he was part of the squad that won a gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games. He had four points in the six-game tournament. Gruden also played at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge. Gruden struggled in this tournament with just one assist in five games. Recently, Gruden was an alternate captain for the U.S. team at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships. He put up four assists in seven games and helped the American team win a silver medal.
Gruden is committed to attend Miami of Ohio next season. His CHL rights are owned by the London Knights. His father, John Gruden, is the head coach of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. He played 92 NHL games with the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, and Washington Capitals, as well as spending time in the AHL and European Pro Leagues.
Jon Gruden Scouting Report
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born May 4th, 2000 — Rochester, Michigan
Height 6’0″ — Weight 172 lbs [183 cm / 78 kg]
Gruden is a solid skater. He has good, but not great speed. This is helped by his first few steps and acceleration which are very good. It allows Gruden to win races to loose pucks. He is also able to quickly change speeds, which can fool defenders. Gruden is strong on his skates. He has the power to fight through checks. With good balance, Gruden wins battles along the boards and battles for position in front of the net. His agility and edgework are good. They allow him to weave through traffic and find open space.
Gruden generates offensive chances through smart play and hard work. He gets in quickly on the forecheck and pressures opposing defenders into making mistakes. When teammates have the puck, he gets to the front of the net, creating screens, and battling for tip-ins, rebounds and to one-time a pass to the back of the net. When the puck is on Gruden’s stick, he is hard to knock off of it. He makes the smart play, and he keeps things moving in the cycle game. Gruden has a decent, but not great shot. He gets it off quickly and keeps things on net.
Gruden might not be the most creative player, and he plays a very north-south style of game. However, it is extremely effective. He never gives up on a play. Gruden is also not the biggest forward on the ice, but he often finds himself in the centre of scrums. He plays a gritty game and can get under an opponent’s skin simply by his sheer tenacity.
Gruden’s smarts and work ethic translate in his own zone as well. He brings backpressure to support the defence against the rush. He is also willing to work down low and help the defenders against the cycle game. Gruden anticipates plays well, and uses his stick to break-up passes and cut down shooting lanes. When a turnover is created, he transitions quickly to offense. Gruden is an effective penalty killer and a threat short-handed.
Projection and Comparison
Gruden projects as a potential middle-six winger in the NHL. He may never put up superstar scoring numbers, but if developed could be a secondary scorer who plays a solid all-around game and can be used in all situations. He understands how to play the game, and gets the most out of his physical tools. Gruden’s game is reminiscent of Artturi Lehkonen, but this is a stylistic comparison only, not one based on potential or ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Gruden that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Embed from Getty Images
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA – SEPTEMBER 30: Jonathan Gruden #17 of Team USA skates in the first period during the game against the Omaha Lancers on Day 3 of the USHL Fall Classic at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on September 30, 2017, in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)