Derek Grant is making a strong bid to fill the Sabres’ open roster slot. He scored the Sabres’ lone goal in their 8-1 drubbing last night against Toronto and on Tuesday, he scored once and added two assists in Buffalo’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Ottawa Senators. He tied the game against his old team with 4:42 to play, then set up Jake McCabe for the game-winner in the extra session. He played in all situations and even drew a penalty when the Sabres were two men down.
“I try to go out every shift and work as hard as I can and try to win that shift. I’m just trying to come in here and work and try to prove that I can be here.” – Derek Grant
The 6’3″, 205 pound forward said the right things in a post-game interview. Dan Bylsma couldn’t help but notice the effort from Grant.
“He’s building trust in his game with the way he’s playing,” Bylsma said. “You have to earn the trust in your coach. You have to earn the trust in your teammates with your game. I’m pretty sure he’s been doing that”
As an assistant general manager in Ottawa, Tim Murray originally drafted Grant in the fourth round (119th overall) in 2008. This past summer, Murray reached out to free agent Grant and got him to sign a one-year, two-way deal for $650,000 in Buffalo and $400,000 in Rochester.
At 26, he is perhaps a better fit than his preseason linemates Hudson Fasching and Nicholas Baptiste, who can ripen in Rochester. While Grant has yet to produce in a sprinkling of NHL games, a review of his AHL work suggests that he is now ready for the next step. After settling into his first season in Binghamton, his production in terms of points per game has increased each year:
.38 in 2011-12
.44 in 2012-13
.48 in 2013-14
.52 in 2014-15
Last year, while shifting between the Flames and minor-league affiliate AHL Stockton, Grant had a breakout season, recording 27 goals in 36 games.
“He’s a real big man and he can skate and move around. There’s been a determination with the way he’s played, and I think it’s been evident.” – Dan Bylsma
The Sabres roster is now completely reflective of Tim Murray’s moves as General Manager. Murray likes big, powerful players who work hard.
Grant also benefits from having the existing connection of being drafted by Murray. As a player who has developed into a producer and can play in all three zones, Grant seems to have the edge on his rivals for the open forward roster spot. For these reasons, in October,
Grant has a great chance to grab that roster spot and open the 2016-17 season in blue and gold.