Jonathan Gruden is the son of coach of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. His dad was a former NHL defenseman (Capitals, Sens, Bruins) and now he’s looking to create his own path to the NHL. He is 2018 NHL Draft eligible and the 6-0, 172-pound forward has a chance to follow in his dad’s footsteps and beyond.
“Every day you just try and get better in the weight room and on the ice,” Gruden stated. “When you take a day off and it can separate yourself from the group. I just try and work hard every day and the let the rest take care of itself.”
A lot of players claim they’re centers when the draft rolls around, but this prospect can say he plays multiple positions.
“I can see myself being versatile throughout the whole lineup. When Jack Hughes came up with us, coach (Seth) Appert put me on the left wing with him. I liked it a lot. Jack’s a talented player,” he added. “He helped me a lot. I think it really helped me a lot increasing offense and creating more speed.”
This season the NTDP played against a few colleges. The Michigan native will attend college next season. He’ll play for Miami University.
“I liked it a lot. Having the bands there and all the craziness. Playing against bigger and stronger men really helped us out. I’m really looking forward to next year. I like that hockey is the top priority there,” he said, and then he talked about how the crowd was for the U18s in Russia.
“Every game the crowd got on us, because they don’t like us. It really helped us a lot being there, and it really helped us being there and it was best for our team.”
The United States captured a silver medal in that tournament. Falling to Finland 3-2 in the gold medal game.
I have him slated as my “sleeper pick” of this draft and when I told him that his answer surprised me.
“It’s always nice to get recognized but I think it goes to show how much talent we have on our team,” said Gruden. “This is a credit to them. It’s making me better and pushing me.”
His name is the same as the Raiders head coach. He doesn’t look like him, but the name still creates some confusion.
“Everyday, all the time. My dad gets it more than I do. He says, ‘I’m no relation but I’ll take the contract.’ I just laugh,” Gruden chuckled.
NTDP players prepare for the combine. He is doing that and then some. As far as playing at a higher level. He knows he has to put on some muscle.
“I’m not the heaviest guy. I’m trying to put on the weight any way possible. I’m not eating junk food all the time. Trying to eat healthy and put good fuel in my body,” Gruden opined.
This guy has the drive, determination and the work ethic to get to the next level. I suspect a lot of teams are keeping an eye on him. He could go anywhere from the second to the fifth round, depending on how the draft breaks. Either way, he will make the most of his future opportunity.