Though the Edmonton Oilers may expect Eric Gryba to fill in as the team’s seventh defenceman this season, can he play well enough to earn a spot in the lineup?
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound blueliner signed a two-year extension with the team earlier this off-season and has been training hard. In fact, he is making a case for a promotion this year. Gryba has been working out and showing off his strength and versatility and is also maintaining his big frame.
In 40 games with the Oilers during the 2016-17 regular season, Gryba recorded two goals and six points and was a minus-5. He also racked up 145 hits and 47 shot blocks and played well on the bottom pairing with Darnell Nurse.
A big, physical defenceman, the 29-year-old uses his size to his advantage and leans into his opponents. He doesn’t shy away from fights or battles for the puck and can match up with pretty much any opponent.
However, for Gryba to secure a spot in the lineup, and not just as the team’s extra defender, he will have to improve in a few areas.
Room for Improvement
For starters, Gryba needs to be more careful with the puck. His possession metrics aren’t the best, and he tends to give the puck over a lot. Not only that but because of this, his opponents can outwork him and beat him in one-on-one battles.
While he makes up for that with his defensive play in the form of hits and blocks, he shouldn’t rely on that to bail his team out. In fact, if he avoided turnovers and used his frame to better protect the puck, the team would be more in control of the game with him on the ice.
In addition, the Saskatchewan native needs to add a bit of offensive edge to his stay-at-home game. With his size, Gryba can certainly rip the puck from the point, and that would add more to his overall value and make him an important asset to have in the lineup.
While he currently fits the description of a depth, stay-at-home blueliner, Gryba can be so much more than that if he adds a bit more to his game. Overall, Gryba is a solid defenceman for Edmonton to have in the lineup, but he will have to stand out and invest more in his rough-and-tumble style of hockey.