The Nipawin Hawks must have seen something in forward Michael Grant that others didn’t because when they swung a trade with the Grand Prairie Storm last summer the deal went right under the radar.
The 19-year-old Lethbridge product had just one goal and seven assists in 53 games with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Storm, but with the Hawks, Grant has blossomed into a bonafide sniper having registered 21 goals and 14 assists through his first 45 games in the SJHL.
The 6-foot, 186-pound Grant has played in all situations with the Hawks having scored six times on the power play and adding another shorthanded, but during one week in mid-January he exploded for five goals and three assists in three games to help launch the Hawks into what has turned out to be a 12-game winning streak and get Nipawin back in the chase for a Sherwood Division banner.
Grant had showed some of his scoring prowess in his final year of midget hockey back home with the Lethbridge Midget AAA Hurricanes as he collected 13 goals and 13 assists in 34 regular-season games and added three goals and one helper in six playoff tilts. Prior to that, however, his biggest offensive output was a nine-point campaign at the minor midget level as a 15-year-old.
The Hawks paid a big price in sending forward Zac McNeil to Grand Prairie in exchange for Grant and Devan Reed (who has since landed in Camrose of the AJHL), but the returns have been more than favourable as Nipawin looks to clear that last hurdle and return to the SJHL championship final for the first time since 2001 (they were eliminated by eventual champion Melfort Mustangs in the semifinals in each of the last two years).
Nipawin has been a defence-first team as they have allowed the fewest goals against among the 12 SJHL entries, but the addition of Grant has also moved them into the top third for goals scored and that extra punch will be pivotal when the post-season begins.
And, with another year of junior eligibility remaining, Grant will only get better from the experience and confidence he has gained this season.