Granted an Opportunity

 yet, you can count on knowing it soon.Grant ClitsomeHe managed to make quite a splash in his NHL debut and followed it up with a head-turning performance over 31 games in 2010-11. If you don't know the name

While it wasn't quite the traditional route that most players take to get to the NHL, the path Clitsome chose has turned out to a rewarding to date.

Taken in the ninth round, 271st overall, by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Clitsomedecided  to commit to a four-year collegiate career with Clarkson University of the ECAC.

He appeared in his first NHL game on March 2, 2010, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

While it wasn't the outcome he had hoped for, notching two assists and being named the third star of the game somewhat soothed the sting of losing.

“I guess that's the way you hope and dream that your first game in the NHL will go,” laughed Clitsome, who spoke with NHLPA.com en route to Columbus. “I wish we would have won, but it was something I'll neverforget.”

It was also a moment he initially had difficulty putting into words.

“It's very surreal, to be honest,” said Clitsome, whose first NHL goal came on March 27, 2010, against the New York Islanders. “The whole thing, at least the game, was quite a blur. You realize this is what you wanted to do pretty much your whole life and then, there you are, out on the ice, looking around at guys you watched on television.”

Clitsome, who played with the Syracuse Crunch, the Blue Jackets American Hockey League affiliate, from 2008-10, wanted to make the most of his opportunity with Columbus.

“I felt comfortable and I wanted to make a contribution on some sort of level, whether it was offensively or defensively,” said the native of Gloucester, Ontario, a suburb of Ottawa, who appeared in 11 games with the Blue Jackets and 64 games with the Crunch in 2009-10. “Everyone on the team made me feel relaxed. That's extremely key, especially when you are just starting out.”

Last season, Clitsome played in 32 games with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL, while skating in 31 contests with Columbus.{{QUOTE}} 

The 5'11”, 210-pounder showed his versatility, recording 19 points with the Jackets, while providing solid and consistent play in his own end.

“Overall, I was very happy with how things went,” he noted. “My thought process was something I learned early on in my career. I would control what I could control and anything outside of that, I wasn't going to worry about.”

His strong season resulted in a two-year contract offer from Columbus.

""We are pleased to have Grant signed for two more years,"" said Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Scott Howson Howson. ""He is a great example of a player we drafted who has patiently developed at the collegiate and AHL levels and become a solid, dependable NHL defenseman.""

Clitsome, who received Second Team All-American, First Team ECAC All-Star and NCAA East Regional Team honors in 2007-08 with Clarkson, in addition to being named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team, is thrilled at how things turned out.

“I really am,” he said. “I worked hard to be able to get to this point and I'm very happy to be part of this team. But I want to continue to grow as a player and that's something I focused on throughout the summer. I want to have the type of year that can help our team reach the playoffs. I don't want to look any further than the next game I play.”

It's an approach Clitsome also applies to the Blue Jackets' pursuit of a playoff berth.

“As we've seen, one game really can make all the difference. You need to focus on the game ahead of you and know that each one is equally important. You don't want to put yourself out of the picture early and then have to make a big run at the end. It's just so tight in both conferences.”

Can we expect another big splash from Clitsome in his first game of 2011-12, perhaps a hat trick?

“I don't know if I can promise that,” he laughed. “But that would be nice. Anything I can do to make a positive impact is what I'm looking for.”

It's something Grant Clitsome has become quite familiar with.



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