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Penguins Add Versatile Young Forward in Gruden

The 20-year-old prospect is excited to join Pittsburgh after being acquired from Ottawa

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

When Jonathan Gruden got off the ice following a skate this morning in his hometown of Rochester Hills, Mich., he had a couple of missed calls from the Ottawa Senators.

"I called them back, they said I've been traded to Pittsburgh, and 10 minutes later, they announced the trade," Gruden said. "It happened pretty fast. I couldn't even get undressed from my gear. I'm just really excited to be part of Pittsburgh."

Video: Jonathan Gruden 10/7 media availablilty

The Penguins sent goaltender Matt Murray to Ottawa in exchange for the 20-year-old forward prospect and a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, which began just minutes after the trade was announced.

While all of that was happening, Gruden's first call once he got his equipment off was to his father, John - who has been an assistant coach with the New York Islanders since the summer of 2018 and got a kick out of the fact that his son was now in the same division.

"He kind of laughed, and said that's pretty funny," Jonathan said with a smile. "He said (Pittsburgh) is a very good organization, it's a good spot. Lots of great players, great coaches, great staff and everything. I mean, you really couldn't ask for anything more. So we're all really excited, the whole family."

Jonathan, who was originally drafted in the fourth round (95th overall) by the Senators in 2018, calls John his biggest role model.

The elder Gruden moved behind the bench following a professional hockey career that saw him play 92 games over the course of six NHL seasons with the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals, along with stops in the American Hockey League, International Hockey League and in Europe.

"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."

The younger Gruden was a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program from 2016-18, helping lead Team USA to a silver medal at the World Junior Championship in 2018. 

Gruden spent one season playing collegiate hockey for Miami University (Ohio) before spending last year with the London Knights of the OHL. He ended up recording 30 goals, which ranked second on the team, and 66 points, which ranked fourth, in 59 games along with a plus-20 rating. 

"Ultimately, I wanted to get the NHL as fast as I could and no better place to play than London," Gruden said. "I mean, obviously, you can name off the players have played there. So I kind of wanted to play there. And I'm glad I went there."

Gruden, who currently measures 6-foot and 172 pounds, describes himself as a high-compete and high-character player who likes to get in front of the net and get to the dirty areas.

"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."

As of right now, Gruden said his plans for next season are currently up in the air, and he plans on talking with Pittsburgh's development staff to figure out the best option. 

"Obviously, you don't want to rush yourself," Gruden said. "I'll work with them throughout the summer, or rather, this fall and just work my way up and talk to them about what's best. Really no timeframe, because I think once you put a timeframe on it you kind of get too far in your head. 

"So I'm trying to get better every day. And then to get to the next level, I kind of want to work on my speed because it's a fast game and it's getting faster every year. So just kind of work on my speed and the rest will take care of itself."

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