The 2022 edition of Pensburgh’s Top 25 Under 25 countdown continues with a player believed to be a layup in Matt Murray’s trade.
Related: 2022 Pensburg Top 25 Under 25: Alumni and Departures
#25: Nolan Collins
#24: Colin Sawyer
#23: Jonathan Groden – LW
2021 standings: 16
Age: 22 (May 4, 2000)
Acquired by: 2020 Matt Murray Trades With Ottawa Senators
Height/Weight: 6’0″/170 lbs
Entering his second professional season, it wasn’t as if expectations were on the height of a skyscraper for Jonathan Gruden. Now, that’s not to say he’s not a good player or doesn’t deserve his place in the squad, but given the potential Penguins group, even with shallowness, Gruden was never rated as a “can’t miss” player.
Gruden was commissioned to play a physical in the sixth round for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and by the end of the season, he had found himself as captain in the games he played, appearing in 75 of a potential 76 games. Reliability and reliability are always positive traits.
From an offensive perspective, Gruden nearly doubled his total points compared to his first season with Baby Penguins. The two-digit goals and assists are positive increases, but the number that really stands out for me is the 78-minute penalty. While Gruden only played 32 games in 2020-21, accumulating 13 PIM, 78 PIM lends more credence to the idea of coaches wanting the winger to embrace the physicality of a typical low-streak striker.
Even if he were to reach the bright lights of the NHL, he would never look to Gruden as a consistent source of attack; He’ll have to rely on his physical game and his defensive responsibilities, perhaps partaking in the scoring sheet now and then. It looks like the coaches in this league will always find a place for that hardworking, treadmill type in the bottom lines.
However, with his season approaching the age of 22, as this was the last year of his base contract, Gruden will need to take some steps in his game if he is to receive his first official call-up during the 2022-23 campaign. Teammates Valtteri Puustinen, Drew O’Connor and Filip Hallander all got a brief taste of NHL work last season. And in O’Connor’s case, he could be in the team’s opening evening squad on October 13.
At 22, there is still plenty of time for Gruden to be late. He was largely predicted as a sixth-placed player in the NHL. And he should stay on that path, if not overtake it somewhat if he puts on a great 2022-23 season in the AHL.