FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Derek Grant

Derek Grant was the afterthought of July 1, 2015. The Flames had re-signed Karri Ramo and had brought Michael Frolik into the fold on one of the bigger contracts of the day; why spend too much time thinking about a guy who looked to be a 25-year-old AHL lifer? He’d be great depth for Stockton, but probably not much else.

Flash forward throughout the season, and Grant seems to have taken another step. Depth for Stockton? Try arguably one of the better players in the entire AHL, and maybe even someone who might be a reliable depth NHL player one day.

Season summary

Grant started his season in the AHL, but early injuries saw him called up to the Flames on Oct. 24. He was occasionally healthy scratched, but ultimately played nine games for the Flames in his first go-around: the exact number he needed in order to once again be sent back down without needing waivers, even though he was starting to look like he belonged.

In those first nine games, Grant played limited minutes and was held pointless, but did accrue 10 shots on net.

He returned to Stockton in mid-November, and that’s when he started destroying the AHL. Over 36 total games, he scored 45 points; had he not suffered a broken jaw in a practice in early February – right after he was named the AHL’s Player of the Month in January, and was the Heat’s lone representative at the AHL All-Star Game – he almost certainly would have been Stockton’s leading scorer. Alas, he’d have to settle for second as Kenny Agostino scored 12 more points in 29 more games, though nobody topped Grant’s 27 goals.

Healed well enough to play again, Grant came back up to the Flames when he was recalled on March 28. He finished his season in the NHL, playing another six games. He registered his first point as a Flame – an assist – and took 12 shots on net as his ice time rose to consistently be above 10 minutes a game.

Grant became a much improved player over the course of this past season. He rose to over a point per game for the first time since playing in the BCHL (though he came close in a couple of seasons at Michigan State University); his previous career high in the AHL had been 38 points in 73 games from just the season before.

Impact on team

So, here’s a thing Grant did a lot: get the puck on net.

He registered just over a shot per game in his first call-up stint with the Flames; in his second, he was a two shots per game player. In the AHL, though, he had 165 total shots on net: 4.6 per game. He was the third most frequent shooter on the Heat, and that’s with playing nearly half a season less than everyone else. Hell, he would have been one of the top shooters on literally every team in the AHL this past season, even with the substantially fewer games he played than most others.

There was a period of time before his injury when Grant was the Stockton Heat. Had he maintained his scoring pace, he would have been the AHL’s leading scorer with 85 points, and 312 shots on net. Granted, he missed roughly half the season and it’s a lot to expect anyone to keep up that pace, but those would be some staggering numbers no matter what.

Which brings us to his time in the NHL.

Top left has players in most difficult circumstances: more defensive zone starts and tougher competition. Bottom right has players in easiest circumstances: a lot of offensive zone starts and weak competition. The bigger a player’s circle, the more he plays. The bluer, the greater his possession relative to his teammates; the redder, the worse. Click on image for full-sized chart from Corsica.

grantusage

Grant had the fourth worst zone starts out of those who played semi-regularly on the Flames. His 46.04% 5v5 CF – ninth worst on the Flames – wasn’t anything to write home about, but consider: not only was he better than the three players who had worse starts than him, but the puck went against him less than it did for Kris Russell, Markus Granlund, Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland, and Lance Bouma, too.

Grant actually played roughly the same level of competition as Stajan, Engelland, Bouma, Wideman, and Granlund, and in his limited showing, he looked potentially better than all of them. Is there any reason he can’t, at absolute worst, be among the Flames’ bottom six? Who would be better to have in general: Bollig or Grant?

What comes next?

Grant is an upcoming Group 6 UFA. He needs a new contract, and the Flames should give him one.

The Flames really liked Grant when they picked him up, but I’m not sure even they knew just what they had on their hands. Grant easily had the best season of his entire career, leaps and bounds over his previous efforts. He could very well be ready to take that next step and transition into a regular NHLer. 

He’s 26 years old, so he might be something of a late bloomer. That, or it’s entirely possible this past season was just a fluke. But Grant definitely deserves the opportunity to prove he can do it again – and if he gets that chance with the Flames, he forms one part of a low-cost, but effective, bottom six.

  • Stu Cazz

    Late bloomer, big body, strong on face-offs, proven scorer at AHL level…sign him as your starting 4th line centre….let’s be creative and move out that Stajan contract!

  • Parallex

    My thought on Grant can be summed up thusly… “meh”.

    That’s not to say that he was bad but more that I think he’s your 13/14th fwd at the NHL level. Sure I’d rather have him then Bollig… but there are scores of guys I’d rather have then Bollig so that’s not a particularly high bar to clear. I think the more accurate question is who would you rather have Grant or Jooris? Because that’s effectively the “spot” he’d be competing for.

    The other thing to consider is this… Jankowski, Mangiapane, Pribyl, Pollock. Those are just the forwards we’ll have coming in on pro contracts. We need spots for them both in the reserve list and likely on the farm. The Flames have some decisions to make because they can’t keep everyone.

    • Stan

      Um what? Why would Grant ONLY be competing for Jooris spot? That literally makes NO sense. He is competing for any spot on the team, provided he can prove that he is better then other options.

      I would probably rather have Grant over Stajan, Raymond, Bollig and maybe Bouma off the top of my head. His play in the AHL was exceptional and he was effective in limited minutes on the big club, why not give him an opportunity to grow? His AHL production leads me to believe that he has some scoring potential and he is defensively responsible. The underlying stats back up his play as well as he takes LOTS of shots. Just because a prospect isn’t super flashy and doesn’t “WOW” you doesn’t mean that he should just be written off.

      As for your point regarding their not being enough room on the farm team, well that is just completely ridiculous. If Stockton can’t find room for their LEADING SCORER to return then I would be seriously concerned.

      In summary, your evaluation makes little to no sense. If you think Jooris and Grant are “meh” players then I don’t know what to tell you other then I would PLEASE love a couple more “meh” players. An entire 4th line would be nice.

    • jakethesnail

      I agree…time to move on from plus 25 year old forwards who have not made the NHL. If he were a D-man having his best year at Stockton that would be different. Flames are loaded with bottom 6 forward talent. Even if we are not, it is easy to find a player for the botton 6. It is time to weed some of them out.

  • Stan

    Be interested to see how WW explains Grant having substantially better offensive numbers under Huska.

    Actually, wait a minute. No I wouldn’t causeeeee nothing WW says is interesting.

  • deantheraven

    It looks more likely that Grant is indeed something of a late bloomer. One thing not mentioned in detail is Grant’s face off success. The Flames could use a guy like him in the bottom six- shoots and (sometimes) scores, isn’t a corsi pylon and can win draws in our end.

    The only question is how to get rid one or more of the names already in there. If nobody wants Stajan, buy him out. If Bouma, Bollig, Raymond can’t be packaged and shipped for a pick or a prospect or some gently used pucks, send them down.
    These options don’t provide much cap relief but Grant’s not going to cost more than what we’d save on any one of the above moves.

    More roster space is as important as more cap space next season.

      • deantheraven

        That’s realistic. Spots off the roster for younger, cheaper forwards and some salary off the books,too. Now let’s spin the value of 2 or 3 veteran defensemen. Gotta think there are at least 2 that would get picks in return. Even late picks would be more useful to the rebuild than Wideman at 5 mil (or Engelland at 2 mil)and make a little more cap space for a goalie and/or top 6 RW.
        Treliving has shown he knows how to use picks, that’s for sure.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      You have to resign him , it is unlikely that Bouma, Bollig, Stajan or Jooris have an AHL season like he had if the were in the same situations. I believe he was clocked as the fastest player in the AHL at the All star game and he is 6’3 and 210 lbs…makes no sense to not sign him.

      I do want to see how a a new coach brings out Jooris’s game as I believe Hartley had a negative impact on his game and confidence last year. It would be unwise to base judgement on Grant’s game in the NHL when he was recovering from a broken jaw and not playing at 100% at the end of the season.

  • freethe flames

    The Flames should resign Grant even if he only plays in the AHL(even if he is overpayed). Good organizations have veteran players in the AHL to help players develop and learn to win and to get playoff experience in the AHL. Who are the Heat’s centers for next year; Janko and Arnold unless we resign Grant and maybe even Shore or Freddie Hamilton.

    • Stu Cazz

      Now put on your Derek Grant hat on…you just burned up the AHL…your big body and can win face-offs…why would you sign with the Flames to only play in the AHL? Potentially there are many suitors that will offer you a one way deal…low risk!

      • freethe flames

        I think you misunderstood me or I did not make myself clear enough; you don’t offer him an AHL only deal but a two way deal with a high AHL salary or a low cost one way deal. I am not sure there are a lot of suitors willing to pay him a good NHL deal on a 1 way contract. He probably gets a two way deal with a good signing bonus and is told he will be given a chance to earn an NHL job

        • Stu Cazz

          He won’t sign a 2 way with the Flames or anyone else. He will have a handful of one way offers based on his AHL performance, size, face-off %, and the high probability that he is a late bloomer.

          I think Flames will offer a 1 year 1 way (show me) deal….

  • PrairieStew

    He’s 3 months younger than Joe Colborne. In 6 years of pro hockey he’s played 40 games in the NHL with 3 assists. Sure he had 1.25 pts per game for 36 games in Stockton last year, but his AHL ppg rate was 0.45 in 256 games over the previous 5 years. Ok maybe he’s a late bloomer, but I’d be skeptical he can produce anywhere close to last year again at the AHL level. He’s a depth option for the farm.