After leaving Miami University (Ohio) for the London Knights, Gruden thrived
The Senators fourth-round selection in 2018, was an enticing prospect with the USA National Team Development Program, but had a rough Freshman season in college with a struggling Miami squad.
In his draft year Gruden was very productive, totalling 28 goals and 60 points in 61 games with the USA under-18 team, while having an exceptional 34 points in 25 games in the USHL, with the under-18 squad. There were high hopes for Gruden entering Miami University.
Undergoing an underwhelming season with Miami where he totalled just 3 goals and 15 points in 38 games, it wasn’t the year he or anyone was too pleased with.
Gruden had a decision to make after the season came to an end, and he ended up signing his entry level contract at the end of the 2019 season.
How Gruden came to London
Gruden was drafted in the 5th round, 100th overall in the OHL priority selection draft in 2016, meaning the Knights held his rights if he opted out of his college path, which he did.
Signing with Ottawa, Gruden joined the Belleville Senators for the final stretch of the 2019 season, not appearing in any games with the team.
It was a good move for Gruden, coming to arguably the best run team in the whole CHL, ruled by Dale Hunter who is great at grooming NHL talent.
Stepping into a very talented London roster including first round picks Liam Foudy, Connor McMichael and Ryan Merkley, there was no doubting Gruden was moving to a memorial cup contender. Playing with the likes of McMichael, Foudy and Evangelista, Gruden found success pretty easily, playing 59 games with 30 goals and 66 points in a very impressive season. Finishing fourth on London in points and second in goals.
Being a mainstay on the Knights talent ladened power play the transfer from Miami looked great, scoring 8 goals and 11 assists with the man advantage, placing third on the team with 19 power play points.
When put on a line with McMichael and Foudy, Gruden was dynamic in what was one of the best lines in the OHL.
Showing an affinity to finish around the net, the main reason why he was able to put up 30 goals and enjoy such a successful season.
In December, Gruden was a late cut for the World Junior team due to the momentum he built up with the Knights, but it wasn’t quite enough to crack the roster. Regardless the American team was very strong that season and Gruden would of made the team if the strength of roster was similar to past seasons.
After the season came to an unexpected end due to Covid-19, the Senators draft pick and Knights were stripped of the chance to compete for a Memorial Cup, which was a damper on a very strong season for Gruden.
Gruden has two options for next season; he could either return to London for his overage season or join Belleville of the AHL, both options are realistic but Belleville seems like the frontrunner.
Tony Ferrari of Dobber prospects, thinks Gruden can make the jump to the AHL next season due to his success in London:
Gruden has been enjoying an excellent season in the OHL in what will likely be his first and last as he graduates to Belleville next season. The Senators could elect to have him stay in London as an overage player but that’s unlikely as he’s proven to be a good player at the level. His 61 points in 54 games are impressive for a player who gets varied deployment from night-to-night.
Gruden will have to hope to make a strong impression on the Senators brass if he wants to stay in pro hockey. If he appears not ready for the style of the pro hockey game, then Ottawa won’t be hesitant to send him back to junior for his overage season, if it’s what his development requires.