North of The Border: Gruden Grows in London
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U.S. National Team Development Program (NDTP) alumnus Johnny Gruden is having a productive first season playing for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
The Rochester, Mich., native decided to make the jump from NCAA hockey to Major Junior after his freshman season at Miami (Ohio) last year. The Ottawa Senators 4th round pick from 2018 signed with that club in April of last season, deeming him ineligible to continue playing NCAA hockey. Gruden was originally a 5th round OHL draft pick of the Knights in 2016.
Growing up, Gruden played for some big-time AAA organizations like Honeybaked and Little Caesars in his home state. He committed to Miami at 15, the summer after he played for the Honeybaked Bantam Major AAA team. Always a point per game player, Gruden was a goal scorer in the formative years of his hockey career. In his final year of youth hockey, before joining the NTDP, Gruden tallied 16-8-24 numbers playing for the Honeybaked U16 team.
His time at the NTDP was quite successful. While playing with the U17 team in his first season he tallied 28 points in 56 games. He took his play up a level the next season with the U18s by posting 28-32-60 numbers in 61 games. He also represented the USA on the international stage playing in both the World U17 and World U18 tournaments in each of his two years at the program.
As an 18-year-old Gruden took the step to NCAA hockey. He struggled in his freshman season putting up 3-12-15 numbers in 38 games. He was also a -19 that season in the plus/minus category.
In April, following his freshmen campaign, he signed an entry-level contract with the Ottawa Senators, deeming him ineligible to continue playing NCAA hockey. In May the London Knights announced they had signed him to play for the 2019-20 season.
Gruden is one of many NTDP alumni to suit up for the Knights. Current NHLers such as Patrick Kane and Matthew Tkachuk both played in London following their time at the program. Gruden fell into a scoring groove this year with the Knights, currently sitting with 26-34-60 and a +19. His 60 points are good for a tie for 32nd in overall OHL scoring.
Gruden, who has one more year of Junior eligibility, is also able to play in the American Hockey League (AHL) next season as a 20-year-old. The Knights would welcome his scoring ability back, with open arms, if he returns to play his final season.
We wish Johnny continued success with his hockey career and wish him the best going into the playoffs this season with the Knights.