For a guy who was the fourth option coming out of Binghamton this year, Eric Gryba has put himself into the mix for a permanent spot on the Ottawa Senators roster. I know it is kind of early to be making the leap, but from what I have seen so far, it is hard not to be impressed.
Finally given a chance to play when Erik Karlsson went down with his Achilles injury, Gryba has made the most of his opportunity and for my money, has climbed up the depth chart in a big way.
After two and a half seasons in Binghamton, the Boston University product has brought a very physical element to the Senators blue line that really hasn’t been seen on a consistent basis at this level since Zdeno Chara left the team in 2006. Matt Carkner was physical at times and an intimidating presence, but couldn’t handle playing the minutes that Gryba has started out playing. Anton Volchenkov had some good hits and played pretty physical at times over his Senators years, but his main claim to fame was as a shot-blocker.
Since Ottawa’s 3-0 Hockey Day in Canada loss to Toronto , where he played 16 minutes and was -2 in his NHL debut, Gryba has been over 20 minutes every night while facing the opposing team’s top lines. He has 2 assists and is +1 in the six games since that Toronto game. He is a big part of the reason why the Senators have been able to get points in those 6 games, and he is making a case for himself to be a fixture on the blue line in some capacity, even after the eventual return of Karlsson, either this season or next.
I would put him ahead of Patrick Wiercioch, Andre Benoit, Mike Lundin and Mark Borowiekci on the depth chart, and right now even ahead of Phillips. He brings an element that none of those players have (excluding Borowieki) and has shown even early on that he can handle big minutes against top players.
With all due respect to Erik Condra, I think Gryba is well on his way to becoming the second most popular Erik (or Eric) on the Senators.