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.