Should the Flames call up Derek Grant?

In his brief time with the Flames organization, Derek Grant has caused quite a stir. After the Flames acquired Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik, the seemingly-destined-for-the-AHL signing was little more than an afterthought. After all, this was a 25-year-old who had only played in 25 NHL games: probably useful for Stockton’s depth, but ultimately meaningless to the big club.

Except that would no longer appear to be the case. Grant was called up to the Flames in late October, and he survived for a nine-game stretch, before the threat of waivers necessitated in sending him down – perhaps prematurely.

Since then, Grant has gone on a total tear at the AHL level. With a combination of his success down there, the fact that he was a great story when with the Flames (though he has yet to score a goal in the NHL, and that would be awesome), and general dissatisfaction with the NHL team, a lot of people want to see Grant back up. He’d probably be a fourth line centre, but we already know he can play that role… and just maybe offer a little more.

Success in Stockton

Grant leads the Stockton Heat with 19 goals and 32 points in 27 games. The next highest point getter is Kenny Agostino, with 25 points in 35 games; he and Freddie Hamilton are tied for second in actual goals with 10 apiece.

So to say Grant has turned out to be a valuable option for the Flames’ AHL affiliate would be a massive understatement. He’s reached heights he never has before this season. His career high in points was 38, and that was over 73 games with the Binghamton Senators last year. He’s almost certainly about to set a new one.

Grant is also, legitimately, one of the best players in the AHL this season. His 32 points has him tied for for 26th in overall league scoring, but his 19 goals have him tied for third in the entire AHL, just one goal behind the league-leading 20 goal scorers. 

Not only that, but he’s tied for second in the entire AHL when it comes to getting shots on net. The Ontairo Reign’s Sean Backman leads the way with 132 shots over 39 games. Then there’s Grant, along with Ontario’s Michael Mersch, with 128 shots each over 27 games apiece. Grant is averaging 4.7 pucks on net each and every single game – and for the most part, he’s doing it on his own.

He’s never shown major success at the NHL level, but he’s only 25, and he’s putting together a performance we aren’t exactly used to seeing on minor league Flames teams.

Other point per game Flames AHLers

How rare is Grant’s performance? Well, going back another six seasons – back to the Abbotsford Heat’s inaugural season (coincidence: Grant is from Abbotsford) – the Flames have only had three other AHL players who were a point per game.

Three. Through six years. They were:

  • A 26-year-old Ben Street, with 60 points in 58 games for the 2013-14 Abbotsford Heat.
  • A 26-year-old Blair Jones, with 38 points in 38 games for the 2013-14 Abbotsford Heat.
  • A 30-year-old Krys Kolanos, with 61 points in 47 games for the 2011-12 Abbotsford Heat.

There have been a couple of other close calls – Max Reinhart scoring 63 points over 66 games in 2013-14, Markus Granlund with 46 in 52 the same season, or Sven Baertschi with 26 in 32 in 2012-13 – but for the most part, players who can score and score often are simply not found in the Flames’ minors.

So when a player like Grant comes along, and puts together the season he does, well, a little excitement is understandable.

Comparing Grant to Street and Jones also just so happens to make a lot of sense. Grant is only a year younger than they were, and both players did see NHL time with the Flames those seasons: Street with 13 games (and one assist), and Jones with 14 games (and two goals).

Street was serviceable enough, and Jones likeable; they were, at worst, decent fourth line options, which is exactly what Grant looks like. Although neither put quite as many pucks on net in the AHL as Grant has this season. Street had 172 shots over his 58 games (3.0 shots per game), while Jones had 122 over 38 (3.2).

Grant may not be able to keep his current pace up over the course of an entire season, but what he’s shown so far through the first half of the year has been impressive. At minimum, he’s as good as Street and Jones were, but in reality, chances are he’s at least a little better.

Call him up

With players finally getting healthy and the Flames almost certainly set to be sellers at the trade deadline, we should see some roster changes coming up for the Flames; and with them, potentially, some spots opening up.

Grant has to be a candidate for one of those spots. We’re talking about someone who will, in all likelihood, just be a fourth liner. But it’s the fourth liners like Grant – guys who are deemed write-offs, guys who bust ass in the minors, guys who have yet to score an NHL goal – that can really make sports worth watching. And when you have a season like the Flames are currently in the midst of, isn’t that important?

And to emphasize: Grant is more than a feel good story. He might actually be the best fourth line centre option for this team. And at only 25 years old – only a couple of months older than Jooris, who just made the NHL last season – who knows? He could be a regular.

He’s certainly earned the opportunity to prove himself.

  • Tomas Oppolzer

    Big RH shot on a tear offensivly(yes I know it’s the AHL); call him up and give him a chance with Johnny and Mony. Then let Ferland Play the left side with Sam and froddo.(Frloik), Then have Bouma/Backs/Jooris,

    Management needs to see what they have and he has Earned his chance.

    • Tomas Oppolzer

      Grant doesn’t shoot right…see picture at top of article

      With that being said, when expiring contracts get moved out at the trade deadline bodies will be summoned from Stockton, of which Grant will be at the top of the list…and deservedly so

      • Sol Goode

        I stand corrected. I as sure I had read it somewhere (maybe wishful thinking) as that is what we could use badly. A big strong natural RW who can score would be a nice.

        Am I delusional or just a wishful thinker but has Hudler looked better the last 3 games? It seems he is holding the puck longer, going to the places more often and just playing better. Not as good as last year but I thought the line of he Colborne and Granlund created chances(yes I know they get the best OZ starts) Maybe he is coming round and will be a more valuable trade chip.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Grant up. Granlund down. That way the Heat aren’t that much worse off. They’re on bit of a run and could use the center depth to get back in the playoff picture.

  • RKD

    He should be up here, he’s ripping it up in the A with Stockton. Granlund is in way over his head, this team really struggles with face offs. Grants is not only good at face-offs but will give you more offence than Granlund would. He’s earned a look.

  • Sol Goode

    I would prefer to see Drew Shore,Kenny Agostino, and Emile Poirier up here instead. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that Raymond,Colborne, and Bollig are of no use for us. I don’t know why Shore isn’t up here, he can skate pretty good and he wins faceoffs.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    “Never given, always earned.”

    If BT does his job correctly, he will trade several members of the team and get very little back in terms of actual bodies that can wear uniforms this season. That being the case, the likes of Mr. Grant, Hap Arnold, Agostino Dagostino and Freddie Krueger should all get ample auditions before this season is out.

    • Parallex

      Is any one else really tired of that annoying disingenuous catchphrase?

      Can people please stop spouting that team propaganda as if it were actually true.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    Grant with 2 goals and 2 assists last night, Agostino with 2 goals and Poirier with an assist.

    Agostino and Grant have been playing quite well together and have created enough offense that the Heat have now climbed into 4th place after sitting at the bottom for a long time. The Heat have also been getting good goaltending since Poulin came back as he and Ortio have to push each other for ice time.

    I personally would like to see Grant and Agostino be brought up with Raymond, Bollig or Granlund or one of the other forwards sent down. Play these two as 2/3 of your 3rd line with plenty of OZ starts and see what they have. What do we really have to lose anyways?

    • piscera.infada

      The strangest part about looking at those standings is that the Heat are in fourth in their division by virtue of points percentage (they still have the least number of points overall). They’re also 17 points out of 2nd, but have played 11 games fewer. I don’t really understand the scheduling at all.

      • piscera.infada

        I totally agree with you, it is rather weird. Hopefully they are going into the heart of their season with 2 goalies playing well and their young forwards going and can make a legitimate run at the playoffs. Also I hope management creates a situation where as many AHL players are available for the playoffs. When is the cut off date for being available? How does it work? I am never sure.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Speaking of goalies, what is Treliving going to do about the flaming C’s flaming goalie mess?

    As I see it, neither Ramo or Hiller are number ones, so neither should be brought back next season unless as a backup at a greatly reduced salary.

    I am not prepared to give either Poulin or Ortio the starting job in Calgary next year. Is BT? If not, he won’t find the answer in long John Gillis as the kid isn’t ready for prime.

    I read a post on this site suggesting the Flames should go after Scottie Darling in Chicago. As the Hawks have won 3 cups with average goalies, I would say the Chicago system does more to make Chicago goalies look good than the goalies being stout and stellar themselves. Let’s face it, after Bunny LaRaque left MTL he was never that “great.”

    Why don’t the Flames make a play for big Benny Bishop? I reckon his new salary will be cheaper than the Ramo-Hiller combo now playing. He appears to be the most competent and credible of the goalies that may be on the move.

    While the Flames should target Bishop, my sense is that their search will end in TO where they trade for either JB or JR. If that happens, it indicates the Flames have clearly failed to find a true number one as neither guy has proven himself capable of that.

    My sources tell me that the Flames had the inside leg on Marty Jones last summer but BT, feeling very confident in Ramo, Hiller and Ortio, passed. Jones was never drafted, practised and played in the same barn as the Flames and Flames’ brass failed to see the kid could actually stop pucks. Did they even scout this guy?

    Unless BT starts looking seriously for a real number one goalie ASAP, he will end up with much the same as he has now–castoffs, retreads and not-readies.

  • 2112

    Grant has definitely earned a call up, but what I think is most interesting is the sudden jump in his production rather than its magnitude. If you look at the AHL leaderboard, year after year it is populated by NHL also-rans and career minor leaguers. Grant has obviously made some sort of change to his game that’s working; what we hope to see more of.

    Not to diminish anything Grant has done, and the Heat would be a laughingstock without him, but I don’t think anyone should expect more than yeoman’s work on the fourth line from him. Still, that’s better than we’re getting from some of the current guys on the roster.