Green’s ‘D’ Hoping High Draft Wish Granted

Little known fact about Dartmouth defenseman ‘D,’ Grant Lewis: His first name really is ‘D.’

It’s not something uncommon like “Donovan” or “Darius.” It’s not even something run-of-the-mill like “Daniel” or “David.” Not anymore.

“My dad wanted it to be ‘Dave’ before I was born,” Lewis said, “and my mom wanted it to be ‘D.’ When I was born, my dad filled out my birth certificate, ‘Dave.'”

Mom got her way when little Lewis turned 5, though, and while he’s “Grant” to the Thompson Arena faithful, officially, he’s just been ‘D’ ever since. Appropriate, since whoever takes Lewis in this month’s NHL Entry Draft will get ‘D,’ and plenty of it, since Lewis is one of the top blueliners available.

Of course, the other big ‘D’ in Lewis’ life — Dartmouth — has benefited from his presence since the Upper St. Clair, Pa., native chose the Big Green, enrolling after it sustained heavy graduation losses on the blue line.

“When I was choosing between Dartmouth and Cornell,” Lewis said, “I chose Dartmouth because I knew they were losing some D, and I figured that was the best chance to get an opportunity.”

He found that opportunity and took it — in spades. As Dartmouth made its fourth straight appearance at the ECAC Championships, Lewis scored 25 points (three goals, 22 assists) and earned first-team All-Ivy and All- ECAC honors.

Those numbers — which rank Lewis 15th nationally among freshmen and fourth among defensemen in points per game — surprised nearly everyone, including Lewis himself, who totaled 24 points in two seasons with the North American League’s Pittsburgh Forge.

“I didn’t have any expectations of scoring 20 or 25 points,” Lewis said. “The year before, I’d played 60-something games and had nine points. I never really had a lot of points until this season.”

His No. 29 spot on the midseason NHL Central Scouting Report wasn’t exactly preordained, either. “I had no idea I was going to be that high,” Lewis said. “I was hoping just to be on the list, to be honest.

“I came in here just like every other freshman, wondering how much ice time I was going to get, if I was going to play. The coaches were telling me that I was going to play, so I had some idea when I came here that the coaches had a lot of confidence in me. They gave me a great opportunity and I just ran with it.”

Lewis’ journey from unheralded freshman, to pleasant surprise, to hot draft prospect, mirrors that of another Big Green skater: Hugh Jessiman. According to Lewis, Jessiman, whose freshman year in Hanover saw him go from untested, Division 2 prep product to first-round draft pick, has become a valuable resource going into this year’s draft.

“I think Hugh has been a great role model for me,” Lewis said. “He went through this last year. He’s kind of been through it all, so he gives me the heads up going into things. He lets me know what scouts are looking for, and kind of keeps my head in check, makes sure that I’m always playing the game, and not trying to do too much.”

Of course, Lewis wouldn’t mind following in Jessiman’s footsteps at the draft, either, and be drafted by his hometown team.

“I think Pittsburgh would be an awesome place to play,” Lewis said. “I think I’d get a lot of fan support, just because it’s my hometown.”

Still, he’s not afraid to pack his bags, either. “I like all the Canadian teams,” Lewis was quick to add. “I think that hockey in Canada is a little more important to the fans than it is in the States. But I also love Phoenix and Philadelphia.”

Don’t think that Lewis is anxious to leave Hanover, though. With four incoming freshmen on the Central Scouting rankings, Lewis knows that he’s part of a program on the rise. “Dartmouth has come from rags to riches,” Lewis said. “I think Dartmouth has such an upside to the program now. Our coaches are great.

They can take us to compete at the top levels, and I think that’s something that Dartmouth hockey hasn’t always been used to.

“Hugh’s done a lot for the program, whether he knows it for not. Recruits are starting to see that Dartmouth is a top team, and that you can get drafted high from playing at Dartmouth.” With a strong showing in Raleigh, N.C., and a rewarding Big Green career to follow, Lewis is hoping to “do a lot for the program” in his own right.

(This article originally appeared in this month’s edition of USCHO Magazine.)