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Grant focused on earning full-time NHL gig

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Derek Grant doesn’t exactly know where he’ll end up.

But he knows what he wants to be.

An NHLer.

Grant, a Group VI unrestricted free agent on July 1, simply wants the opportunity to ply his trade full-time in the National Hockey League next season.

“My goal is to play in the NHL,” said Grant, who split the 2015-16 campaign between the Calgary Flames and Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League. “If that’s here and they want me here than that’s something I would love. Hopefully we can work something out.

“There are some discussions that we’ll have to have. I enjoy it here and it’s a great group of guys and a great organization to play for. Hopefully we can find a contract that fits both sides.”

It’s an understandable goal given what Grant was able to accomplish at the AHL level in 2015-16.

Despite playing only 36 games in Stockton, the 25-year-old amassed 27 goals and 45 points. Only five skaters -- Frank Vatrano, Chris Bourque, Jeff Tambellini, Charles Hudon and Eric Tangradi -- scored more than Grant, and only Vatrano did so at a higher pace.

Grant was named Stockton’s Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player Of The Year, and earned the Fan Favourite award, too.

But he’s hoping he won’t defend those honours next season.

And a 15-game stint with the Flames split over two call-ups from the minors, including one that saw him close out the season in Calgary, has given Grant the confidence that he won’t need to.

“I have proven to myself and to a lot of people that I can play here (in the NHL),” he said. “Going forward, you have to keep telling yourself that you’re going to be. I just have to approach every day in the summer with that mindset.”

“Every game that you play you feel more comfortable. The more you play and the more experience you get it gives you that much more insight into believing in yourself.”

That additional comfort came as an added bonus to a season that looked to be wiped out because of a broken jaw.

Getting set to play in Bakersfield in early February, Grant was struck in the face by an errant puck. Two dentists saw multiple fractures in his face and assumed surgery and a wire would follow, which would’ve landed Grant a three-month recovery time.

Surgery wasn't a necessity.

“The timing of it wasn’t the greatest,” he said. “It’s one of those things that takes you by surprise but when you’re playing your best hockey -- it was the best hockey I’ve ever played -- so the timing was the worst thing about it.

“When I got news that my season wasn’t over and that I could get back playing it was exciting. It could have been a lot worse. You have to take it as it is because it’s just one of those things. It’s how you bounce back that counts.”

He bounced back with six late-season skates and earned his first point, an assist, with the Flames on Mar. 28. The single was his lone point with the Flames, and third in 40 skates with the NHL.

And strong AHL numbers that has Grant seeking an extended stay in the NHL next season.

“With my numbers in the AHL, I deserved a shot at the NHL level,” Grant stated, “but obviously I didn’t get the production I would have liked here. Going forward it’s something I believe I can do.

“It’s just that opportunity I want to create for myself and then take advantage of it.”

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