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Senators prospect gets early jump on pro career

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
After two solid years of U.S. college hockey at Michigan State, forward Derek Grant has signed his first pro contract with the Ottawa Senators. He'll get started with the AHL's Binghamton Senators on an amateur tryout agreement (Photo courtesy of Michigan State University)
Derek Grant has graduated to the next stage in his hockey career.

The Ottawa Senators forward prospect signed a three-year entry level contract with the team today, foregoing his final two years of eligibility at Michigan State University in the process. He will report to the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators on an amateur tryout agreement.

"He had two very good years at Michigan State and he and ourselves both felt he was ready to start his pro career and get another challenge in his life," Senators assistant coach Tim Murray said of Grant, a fourth-round selection (119th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. "That's what he'll do shortly."

The 6-3, 185-pound left-winger led the Spartans in scoring during his sophomore year, totalling eight goals and 33 points in 38 games. Michigan State's season ended last weekend with a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Alaska-Fairbanks in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

"This was not an easy decision, but it is the one I felt that was right for me," said Grant, who will travel to Norfolk, Va., to join the B-Sens. "I love everything about Michigan State, and I will always be a Spartan. I owe a great deal of thanks to our coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to wear the Green and White. I also need to thank my teammates, who made my experience in East Lansing unforgettable. "

During his two years in East Lansing, Mich., the 20-year-old Grant produced 20 goals and 43 assists in 76 games. Murray describes the native of Abbotsford, B.C., as a "finesse, smart offensive winger" who "sees the ice very well and handles the puck very well." He'll be welcomed by a Binghamton team that is in a battle to land an American Hockey League playoff spot but has seen its roster depleted by callups to the big club in Ottawa.

"I talked to Kurt (Kleinendorst, the B-Sens' head coach) about him and told him he’s coming and he’s excited," said Murray. "I’ve told him about the type of player we think (Grant) is. There’s going to be an adjustment period, but Kurt’s not afraid to use young players.

"We’re shorthanded right now down there with the callups and a couple of injuries, but I think they could use him and be happy to have a fresh set of legs. We won’t judge his career on this little foray into pro (hockey), but certainly we can judge his talent level and how hard he’s going to work in the future to become an NHL player."

The late-season stint in Binghamton, added Murray, should help Grant next fall when he attends his first Senators rookie camp and tournament.

"It's a head start for him versus some of our other prospects who don’t have this opportunity," said Murray. He gets down there and he hopefully has a certain length of time (with the B-Sens) that’s not short. Maybe we get into the playoffs there and he gets to experience that. Our coaches here can probably push him harder than he’s been pushed in college.

"Everything will be a first (next fall). But I think this will kind of ease that and make him more comfortable with his peers. I hope that he can step in and play some games (in Binghamton) and help us win."

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