Graves takes both parts of his title very seriously. He's immensely involved in the Rangers' Community Relations department and the charities it supports along with the Garden of Dreams Foundation.
In addition to his tireless work in the community, Graves is also very involved in the development of Rangers prospects. He participates in the Rangers annual Prospect Development Camp, working with younger players and teaching them not only about life on the ice, but off as well.
Graves recently spent some time in Hartford and wanted to share his thoughts on the current Wolf Pack team with Rangers season subscribers.
"Hartford is one of the youngest teams in the American Hockey League," said Graves. "They are a team that came out of the gate a little slow, and had some early season scoring troubles, but scoring struggles mean that you have to focus so much more attention to the details of the game; defense, shot blocking, the little things."
Graves said these "little things" are what separate AHL players from NHL players. When AHL players are forced to focus on these things it only helps to accelerate their learning of the game.
Former NHL defenseman and head coach Jim Schoenfeld is the general manager and head coach of the Wolf Pack and has created a teaching atmosphere in Hartford. Graves is thrilled by how Schoenfeld is approaching his role.
"A learning structure is what you want with young guys," said Graves. "Young guys like Dane Byers, Lauri Korpikoski, Brandon Dubinsky
, Ivan Baranka
and Ryan Callahan
are all showing improvement on a game by game basis, and this is reflected in the standings."
With young players making a major contribution, Hartford has climbed into second place in the AHL's Atlantic Division. Goaltender Al Montoya was also recently named the AHL Player of the Week.
Graves believes Montoya's success is the result of being in a powerful learning environment, and being surrounded not only by great coaches but players such as veteran goalie Stephen Valiquette, who will help with Montoya's continued development.
"A guy like Valiquette is only going to help Al," said Graves. "Valiquette is 29 yrs old and has experience. He is a true professional on and off the ice, and you only have to meet him once to realize it. He understands what the organization is trying to accomplish."
In Graves' view, the work going on in Hartford adds up to a bright future for the Rangers.
"The depth of the organization is good. There are good young players in the system developing not only in North America, but in Russia and Europe as well," said Graves "The future of the NHL is four lines of skating with a balanced attack, and the Rangers are developing players for just that."
Graves is also excited about the off-ice education being given to players in Hartford.
"The WolfPack are not only focused on developing players, but good people, too," he said with evident pride.