ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling players who completed their rookie seasons with the organization in 2018-19. This installment takes a look at defenseman Ryan Graves.
Ryan Graves had a couple of stints with the Colorado Avalanche throughout the 2018-19 season before he was called up to the NHL club on Feb. 8 and remained with the squad for the rest of the year.
The Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, native was acquired by the Avs in a trade with the New York Rangers on Feb. 26, 2018 and he finished 2017-18 in the American Hockey League with the San Antonio Rampage. This past season was his first full campaign with the Avalanche organization, and he started the year with two goals and six assists in 26 contests with the Colorado Eagles.
Graves was on the road with the Eagles preparing for a contest against the San Jose Barracuda when he received word that he was being called up to join the Avalanche. He skated in his first NHL game against the Vegas Golden Knights in Nevada on Dec. 27 and finished his debut with two shots on goal, four attempts, one hit and one blocked shot in 8:26 of ice time.
Between travel and limited rest time, an NHL call-up can be a whirlwind. Graves saw that to an extreme after his wrist got cut badly at morning skate but a few stitches and an afternoon in the hospital later, he was ready to go once the game rolled around.
Video: Ryan Graves talks about making it to the NHL
"It was pretty surreal--we had just gotten to San Jose yesterday, had a travel day yesterday and then I played today," Graves said on the overall experience. "It was pretty unexpected, I didn't really know if there were injuries still or what was going on. I've been waiting for that call for a few years now and when I heard it was Vegas I was even more excited. It's been an awesome overall experience."
In his fifth NHL contest on Jan. 4, Graves recorded another first by jumping on a loose puck down low and hammering it into the net to tally goal No. 1 in his NHL career. The marker came late in the third period against the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, the New York Rangers. It was the final score in Colorado's 6-1 win over the Rangers.
Video: NYR@COL: Graves cleans up in front for first NHL goal
"I was looking forward to this game all day--I know it was the sixth goal, but it felt really good," Graves said after finding the back of the net for the first time in the NHL. "I would have felt good in general, but I'm happy that it happened tonight, and I was pretty excited. It's pretty good experience for me."
In the Avs' next outing on Jan. 8 at the Winnipeg Jets, Graves hit twine again to score in back-to-back games just a couple weeks into his NHL career. He had another stint with the Eagles after that, but joined the Avalanche for Colorado's game at the New York Islanders on Feb. 9 and remained with the club for the rest of the year.
Video: COL@WPG: Graves sneaks in wraparound goal
Towards the end of the regular season, the Avs were making a push for the playoffs and head coach Jared Bednar opted to play seven defensemen and 11 forwards opposed to the traditional usage of 12 skaters up front and six rear guards for a handful of games in March. Dressing an extra blueliner allowed Graves to gain a lot more experiences in games before the playoffs began.
"I feel confident in what Graves can do," Bednar said prior to the game against the Stars on Mar. 7. "I like what he has done for us, especially as a young player coming in. We have talked about all the things that he helps us provide on both sides of the puck, so another good opportunity for him to get in the lineup and play."
He also saw two games with ice time of over 15 minutes, Jan. 23 against the Minnesota Wild and Feb. 20 at the Winnipeg Jets where he had a season-high 16:48 of ice time.
Graves finished his rookie season with five points (three goals, two assists) and a plus-4 ratings in 26 games with the Avalanche. He also chipped in nine points (two goals, seven assists) and a plus-4 ratings through 32 contests for the Eagles.
Having some NHL experience under his belt this summer will help Graves prepare for the 2019-20 as he will look to help the Avalanche's blue line build on the successes that the team saw last season.