While Minnesota Wild prospects set to play for the Houston Aeros were trying to turn heads during training camp at Xcel Energy Center, another prospect, still in the junior ranks, was turning in a career game.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, Tyler Graovac’s stick was hotter than molten lava boiling on the sun’s surface. It took the Wild’s seventh-round pick (191st overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft all of eight minutes in the first period to record a natural hat trick, as his Ottawa 67’s took on the Erie Sound in an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) matchup.
Just 29 seconds into the game, Graovac beat a defender at the red line to create a two-on-one rush, decided to keep the puck and fired a snap shot over the blocker shoulder of Erie goaltender Oscar Dansk. Three minutes later with Ottawa on the power play, the center controlled the puck along the right boards, stepped into slot and fired a bullet past Dansk low to the sick side. He completed the trick, this time short handed, as he stole the puck at his own blue line and rushed the length of the ice on a breakaway. He pulled the puck from his forehand to backhand and then roofed it over the goaltender’s shoulder.
To watch a video of Graovac’s natural hat trick, click here.
The product of Brampton, Ontario is in his fourth year with Ottawa. Coming into the 2012-13 season, the 19-year-old forward totaled 57 points (20-37=57). Graovac had a bit of a coming out party during the 2011-12 OHL playoffs as he helped Ottawa advanced to the semifinals, eventually losing the series 4-1 to Niagara. In 18 playoff games, the 6-foot-4, 197-pound center registered four goals and six assists.
In four games this season Graovac has four goals and owns a plus-2 rating. Late round picks are often considered NHL long shots or projects on draft day, but Graovac looks to be developing into a genuine pro prospect.
Photographs for this story are courtesy of the Ottawa 67’s, IceLevel.com and Blitzen Photography.