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Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: #19 Jonathan Gruden

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A newly added forward via trade looks to continue on an upward trajectory through versatility

London Knights v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Our annual 2020 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

Our annual 2020 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

2020 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Radim Zohorna
#24: Judd Caulfield
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Jan Drozg
#21: Sam Miletic
#20: Lukas Svejkovsky

#19 Jonathan Gruden, RW

2019 Ranking: NR

Age: 20 (May 4, 2000)
Acquired via trade with Ottawa, 2020
Height/Weight: 6’0, 172 pounds

Highlights:

Elite Prospects Resume:

After a freshman go in the NCAA in 2018-19, that didn’t work out, forward Jonathan Gruden switched gears and went into the OHL joining the powerful London Knights and had a great age-19 season in 2019-20 to bounce-back and improve his stock.

Gruden played a lot of time with on a line with center Connor McMichael (Washington first round pick in 2019) and Liam Foudy (Columbus first round pick in 2018), and did well finishing at above a point-per-game and second on the team in goals with 30.

Gruden was initially selected by Ottawa in the fourth round himself back in 2018, with the Penguins acquiring him via trade as part of the deal that sent Matt Murray to the Senators.

A coach’s son (dad John Gruden, no not THAT John Gruden is an Islanders assistant coach) the younger Jonny Gruden already has the hockey cliche and coach-speak down pat:

“Throughout my whole life, I’ve leaned on him,” Jonathan said of his father, who also coached the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League and USA Hockey. “He knows the ins and outs of the league and what it takes to get the NHL. Ultimately, you have to compete, it’s a high compete league. I like to pick his brain about all the things that happen in the NHL.”

...

“You could plug me in anywhere in the lineup and I’ll be effective,” he said. “I’m pretty versatile and I just like to bring whatever I can to the table, whether it’s hits, scoring goals, making plays - kind of a little bit of everything.”

A little bit of everything and versatility are great traits and attributes to bring to the table, though.

The door is open for Gruden to return to the OHL for an over-age season, but from initial comments it looks like the Pens might decide to advance him up to the AHL season and turn professional now:

“This obviously will be a good path for him, starting in Wilkes-Barre, and learning our organization, learning the way we play,” Penguins director of amateur scouting Patrik Allvin said after the trade. “He’s a hard-working player, competitive, good details to his game. Probably more suited to a bottom-six role there. But as with most of the young players, they need time to adjust to pro hockey.”

As Allvin says, the Pens see a bottom-six ceiling, but that would be OK too. Looking through the organization for players, say, 18-22 years old, one won’t find many forwards within the Pens’ organization with much upside to fill that kind of role as a forward. As a mid-round pick if Gruden can pan out and develop into more that would be a nice long-term return from the trade that sent out Murray.

For a player with a famous and conspicuous name shared with a high profile NFL coach, the younger Gruden will have to keep working and chugging along to make a name of his own.