The Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: Who Is Jayden Grubbe?

Photo credit:Red Deer Rebels/Twitter
Bruce Curlock
10 months ago
One of my favourite sayings goes something along the lines of “the best predictor of future behaviour is studying someone’s past behaviour”. We all have tells. We all have likes or preferences in every facet of our life and that often shapes how we live our life. NHL managers are no different.
Each has a preference for how they build teams on everything from salary cap to prospect development to what type of player can succeed in the NHL. For the local team, Ken Holland definitely has tendencies. In terms of what Ken Holland likes in a player, well, he loves big boys. Certainly, he doesn’t shy away from smaller players like Xavier Bourgault, Tyler Tullio or Carter Savoie. However, down the middle of the ice in terms of centers and defensemen, Mr. Holland loves him some size. So when the Edmonton Oilers traded away another 2023 draft pick for Jayden Grubbe, I was not surprised. Grubbe is a 6’3″, 203-pound right-shot center who was a 3rd round pick of the New York Rangers in 2021. For the Oilers, it gave them a more developed prospect playing a position where the Oilers lack organizational depth and playing that position right-handed. So who is Mr. Grubbe? Let’s dig in below.

What Did I See This Year?

Now I admit I was only vaguely aware of Grubbe in his draft year and that only related to him being a Calgary kid. Over the time since he was drafted, I saw him play a handful of times against other Oiler prospects, Maximus Wanner and Jake Chiasson. For me though, he really caught my attention in a seven-game heartbreaker of a playoff series against Chiasson and his Saskatoon Blades this Spring.
While the Red Deer Rebels lost the series in seven games after being up 3-0, Grubbe’s individual play was quite dominant. He played top-line minutes against the Blades best players. He was also playing on the first powerplay and was counted on heavily in the penalty kill. In any high-leverage situation in the series, he was on the ice. So I wanted to dig into this player. When I asked some people who follow the Rebels about Grubbe, they told me this has been him all year and they couldn’t understand the Rangers decision not to sign him. To be frank, neither can I after having watched him more this off-season. Does this mean he will play NHL games? No, it does not. Does it mean the Oilers have a prospect forward they can develop with that goal in mind, absolutely without question.

The Defence Never Rests

As has been pointed out by many, Jayden Grubbe brings the defence to his game first. No question. Quite frankly, you don’t play for the Red Deer Rebels unless your commitment to defence is without fail. Grubbe certainly has that acumen. As noted, he played center against every team’s top line and was an anchor on the Rebels penalty kill. Quite often this is what you will see from Grubbe when he is playing. He’s a very smart, aggressive player on the defensive side of the puck. His size and reach help him a great deal on attacking puck carriers.

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In addition, and one that will not go unnoticed by Oilers scouts, was Grubbe’s 59% faceoff success rate.  The puck generally starts with Grubbe’s team off the faceoff and that definitely has merit in both the defensive and offensive zones.

Not A Shy Guy

If I had to pick a clip that exemplifies Grubbe as a player, it would be this one below. Grubbe playing center wins the faceoff clean and then heads immediately to the net using his big frame to cause chaos. When the play is over, he makes sure he sticks around just to let the opposition know he’s there.

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Or there is this clip as well of Grubbe closing hard on the forecheck.

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This is what you will see from Jayden Grubbe night in and night out. No question that Grubbe will meet players of his size more routinely in the AHL. His next step will be to impose his will on those players to create space both for him and his teammates.

There Is Offence In His Game

One of the pointed critiques of Grubbe is that he does not score enough. For certain, he has not lit up the WHL in his time there for a player selected seventh overall in the WHL Bantam draft. This year, he was 18-49-67 in 64 games in the regular season good for second on the team in scoring and 45th in the WHL. His production was better in the playoffs where he tallied 16 points in 12 games for the Rebels. As with most prospects who are not elite-level scorers, Grubbe will absolutely need to find offence at the next level to gain the attention of the NHL club. However, he does have skill. Watch the clip of this great goal by Grubbe. He’s very patient with the puck despite the situation and then finishes with a great release.

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Now to be fair, he does not score a lot of his goals like this. Most of them are more along the lines of this clip below.

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This would be the area where I have concerns. Grubbe will not have as much success down here without opening up more space for himself by shooting. At the pro level, he will be challenged far more down low by bigger and stronger players. These goals will not come as easy unless Grubbe can force defenders away from the net by threatening a shot. He needs to work on his shot so it becomes more of a threat to score from distance. However, I believe there is some reason for optimism here. Look at this clip of a goal he scored. The focus is twofold: no hesitation or puck shuffle and no backswing. The puck comes off the stick very quickly and is very accurate.

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Here is a real-time example of that release on a powerplay goal he scores. Grubbe generates power, but more importantly, the puck leaves his stick quickly and is accurate. No hesitation and no load before firing type of motion.

Can The Man Distribute?

The part of Grubbe’s game that I find really interesting is his puck skills. He’s a decent handler of the puck, but not dynamic. Moreso he uses his size and strength to shield players from him and also is hard on his stick in puck battles. What is intriguing is his passing skills. Grubbe’s 49 assists this year had him tied for 20th in the WHL. More impressive was his 12 assists in the playoffs that had him 8th overall despite having played far fewer games than every player ahead of him in this ranking.
What I like best about Grubbe’s passing is his vision. He sees the ice very well in high-pressure situations. Whether it is a quick processing capability or because he is confident he can hold players off him despite having the puck, he executes very well. Here is a simple little play that Grubbe makes a lot. He finds quiet ice off the puck. Then when the puck comes to him, it is clear he knows his options already. The result is a great one-timer goal.

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This skill set is not something I expected when I started watching this player. It will help him in the AHL where he will need to show to defenders he can be a threat by moving the puck to players in better spots.

How Are The Boots?

This is where Grubbe needs to do the most work. He will need to get from point A to point B quickly as a pro. Much more quickly than in junior. Grubbe is not a bad skater at all. He has a powerful, compact stride and once he gets moving, he is certainly fast enough. The starting point is the issue. Here is a clip of his skating. I want to focus on the explosive start when he realizes the puck is loose. In particular, look how high his skates get off the ice. This action actually slows him down because it takes him longer to generate as his skates take time to get back on the ice. Once he gets going, he certainly can skate well enough. The second half of the clip shows a very powerful, compact setup. Great knee bend over the ankles. Nice tilt in the upper body. The arms are well positioned and not swaying to cause energy loss. It is only the first two strides that require some work. His style reminds me a lot of Cooper Marody although Grubbe’s boots are certainly much quicker on the whole.

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The Conclusion

I like this player. He doesn’t score enough for certain at this time, especially at 5v5. That being said, he does have some potential to score more with the release highlighted above. It will be incumbent on him to get into spots to use it before being defended. His puck skills are average to above average so that should help him in the AHL. He has great size and being right-handed helps. His skating is AHL average because of the limitations on the explosive start. This can be worked on. Honestly, when I look at how far Noah Philp came as a player with him being four years older, I would think there is a ceiling that is higher for Grubbe than Philp. To have two right-shot bottom 6 center prospects is not a bad thing for the Edmonton Oilers. As I’ve been told, their top six is just fine.
That’s it for today, everyone. As always, your feedback is welcome right here or to me on the Elon machine @bcurlock.

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