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From pretender to contender

by Laurence Heinen / Calgary Flames
Ryley Grantham will always remember the day he went from a pretender to a contender.

On Jan. 8, the Moose Jaw Warriors traded Grantham and a fifth round pick in the 2011 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft to the Kelowna Rockets for Dylan Hood.

“It was a great opportunity for me to go to a team that’s in the playoffs, and better yet that has a chance to make some noise in the playoffs,” said Grantham, who played 137 games over three seasons for the Warriors.

While the Warriors finished last overall in the WHL standings this year, the Rockets compiled a 47-21-1-3 record to finish third overall in the Western Conference standings and recently advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs by defeating the Kamloops Blazers.

After putting up 10 goals, nine assists and 163 penalty minutes for the Warriors in the 2007-08 season, Grantham was chosen by the Calgary Flames in the sixth round (168th overall) of the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

The hulking 6-foot-4, 203-pound forward then attended the Flames annual summer development camp as well as his first NHL training camp prior to the season.

“It was unbelievable,” said the native of Hanna, Alta. “It was my first taste of it and I really enjoyed it. I tried to really take everything in.”

In 38 games with Moose Jaw before being dealt to Kelowna, Grantham scored eight goals and five assists to go with 132 penalty minutes and a minus-14 rating.

After the deal, Grantham notched four goals and 12 assists with the Rockets, while adding 61 more penalty minutes and improving his overall plus-minus rating to a respectable minus-2. In the first round of the playoffs he scored twice against Kamloops.

Although he recorded career highs with 12 goals and 17 assists this season, Grantham’s role is more of an agitator, who will drop the gloves to fight a willing combatant when needed.

“That’s definitely part of my role,” said Grantham, who celebrated his 21st birthday one day before his trade to Kelowna. “It’s something that I’m pretty good at I guess, and just to be an energy guy, to get out there and crash and bang bodies and make room. I make everyone bigger out there.”

That being said, Grantham still knows how to put the puck in the net and set up his teammates.

“I’m not supposed to be putting up a lot of big numbers, but it’s nice to chip in and help out,” said Grantham, who notched two of his goals and added three assists in just four games against the Kamloops Blazers as a member of the Rockets.

Overall this season, the Rockets compiled a perfect 9-0 record against the Blazers, who they will meet in a best-of-seven first round series starting in Kelowna on Friday night.
“I think we’ve got a really deep team in there and we should do well,” Grantham said.

During his time with Kelowna, Grantham has also seen the offensive talents of another Flames prospect, namely first rounder Mikael Backlund, who joined the Rockets a couple days after the WHL trade deadline.

“He’s a really great player,” Grantham said of his teammate. “He’s unreal. It took him a little while to adjust to the style I think, but he’s fitting in well and he’s playing excellent.”
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