Rangers prospect Ryan Graves is adamant that he did not change much in his offensive approach heading into last season with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
A shoulder injury forced him to miss the start of the season, and during that time he was able to work extensively with head coach Phillipe Boucher on his shot and his technique while he rehabbed.
“You don’t want to get hurt. Everyone [faces] adversity,” Graves told BlueshirtsUnited.com in a recent telephone interview. “I really couldn’t do much” and it “drove me nuts.”
Once he was cleared, Graves said he “put in really long days” further rehabbing the injured shoulder, and it seems that hard work paid off. The defenseman, whom the Rangers selected in the 2013 NHL Draft, posted career-highs across the board with 15 goals, 24 assists and 39 points in just 50 games. To put that into perspective, Graves had never topped five goals or 13 assists in a single season.
“Honestly, going into the season I didn’t try to change anything,” Graves said. “I wasn’t trying to put up points. I’ll never go into a season looking for a certain [number of points].”
Gordie Clark, the Rangers’ Director of Player Personnel said a big reason Graves saw his offensive production increase so dramatically was his shot and his willingness to use it.
“He was bombing in slapshots on the power play that we hadn’t really seen in previous year,” said Clark of Graves.
The 2014-15 season marked the second year in a row that Graves competed in the Memorial Cup, as Quebec was guaranteed a spot in the four-team tournament because they hosted the event.
Clark feels Graves will benefit grately from as he continues his development.
“The speed and intensity [of those games] is just off the charts,” Clark said. “That speed, when you’re playing against three of the top junior teams in Canada … is only going to help him.”
Graves, who scored five goals and 11 points in 21 playoff games, said “you grow as a player in situations like that, in high-pressure games,” and added that “you try and take it in, but not too much.
“You try to just play your best,” he continued. “You definitely grow as a player.”
The Yarmouth, Nova Scotia-native will be a part of the home grown blueline taking part in the Traverse City tournament, where he’ll feel a different type of pressure, both facing older players and under the watchful eye of the Rangers’ front office.
“You want to show what you can do,” said Graves, who did not play in the tournament last year due to the shoulder injury. “You want to play the best hockey you can.
“There’s pressure. There’s also excitement,” the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Graves said. “For me personally, I’m not the kind of player that stands out too much. For my game, I don’t want to stand out too much” because he plays a simple style.
Though he can return for another year of junior, the expectation for Graves is to turn pro. For the first time since he was drafted two seasons ago, junior hockey isn’t in his future.
“This year I’m going in to make the team,” Graves said. “It’s a little bit different in that sense. It’s all about putting your best foot forward.”
Graves has three landing spots come September and October: New York, Hartford or Greenville.
“I’m going in with an open mind,” Graves said of training camp. “I don’t know what to expect. It’s kind of the first time in my life I won’t know what team I’ll be playing for.”
The goal, though, is the same wherever he finds himself this Fall.
“I want to play the best hockey possible.”