Ryan Graves was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche from the New York Rangers via a trade on Feb. 26, 2018 and played for the Avs' American Hockey League affiliates, the San Antonio Rampage and Colorado Eagles, before making his NHL debut this season on Dec. 27 at the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, native tallied his first career NHL goal on Jan. 4 against the New York Rangers and followed the performance up with another marker in his very next outing on Jan. 8 at the Winnipeg Jets.
The 23-year-old defenseman has earned his way onto the Avs' roster and has three goals and two assists in 21 NHL games this season.
Graves discusses with ColoradoAvalanche.com about adjusting to the organization, playing in the NHL and his favorite off-the-ice activity.
What are the style differences you've seen between the AHL and NHL?
"There's a lot of differences all around, but I think the biggest adjustment for me is just the speed at which the game is played. You have to think quicker, you have to know your options before and things close off quicker. But also guys are in good spots for you if you play the right way and trust your teammates that they are going to be there. Your first option is usually the right one here, so not trying to do too much. Basically overall, the speed and the way things close off. Not so much foot speed--the foot speed is quicker--but it's more so the way the game is played."
How special was scoring your first NHL goal?
"That was a really cool moment, and something I'll remember for the rest of my life. It's something you dream about as a kid. You never know how it's going to happen, but it doesn't really matter how it happens, it's just that it did and I was pretty happy at the time. It was a nice moment for me, and it's something that I'll always treasure."
Video: NYR@COL: Graves cleans up in front for first NHL goal
Since that first goal, you've scored a few more, have you gotten used to scoring in the NHL?
"No, I don't think goals ever get old. You've got guys that score 50 a year, and they're excited every time. Guys that play my style don't score that much, so every time you get a goal it's exciting and it always brings a little joy."
How did you like your time playing for the Eagles this season?
"It's a good setup down there, good vibes, I actually really enjoyed the first half of the year down there. Fort Collins/Loveland area is a really nice spot, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fans are crazy into it for minor league hockey. There's been multiple times when we come off the ice after a win and it feels like a playoff atmosphere where it's just crazy, people are so into it. People around town recognize you, and it's a big deal. It makes it more fun to play, makes it easier to get up for games. You can ask any guy that's been down there, I'm sure they enjoyed their time there. The staff is good, the setup is good and then the fans make the games fun."
What has your transition into the Avalanche organization been like?
"Everyone's been really good to me, they're a very professional organization. Things have been good, the guys are really nice. It's nice having Loveland just an hour down the highway, so I've been able to go back and forth between my apartment and the hotel and not have to worry about packing one big suitcase and living out of it. So on days off I can go sleep in my own bed and things like that, so it's made the adjustment a lot easier. Overall it's been good, everyone's been really nice, coaches are talking to you and helping you with the transition. I'm aware there will be a learning period and a learning curve, but they help you through it. I've had my hiccups and also my good plays, so they help you through it and they understand I think."
What are your hobbies off the ice?
"I play a lot of golf. In the summer I play probably four times a week usually. I really enjoy it, it's a good way to escape the competitiveness of hockey. I'm still competitive with it, but it's nice to get out with your friends and enjoy and kind of unwind and unplug for a few hours. So that's for sure my biggest hobby away from hockey in the summer. Aside from that, I enjoy just hanging out. I enjoy going out to eat and trying new restaurants and seeing the town and doing things like that--I'm sure most guys are kind of like that. But I think as far as hobbies, probably golf."
A version of this story appeared in the 2018-19 fourth edition of AVALANCHE, the official game magazine of the Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club. For more feature stories, purchase a copy of the magazine during Avs home games at Pepsi Center. All proceeds from game-magazine sales support youth hockey associations in Colorado.