What an NHL feeling!
Yarmouth native Ryan Graves records his first career NHL goal during Jan. 4 game versus New York Rangers; talks about his NHL experience
It took five hours for Ryan Graves’ name to be called during the NHL draft of 2013 and then five years before he finally got to play in his first official NHL game.
And in his 5th official NHL game Graves, who hails from Yarmouth, scored his first career NHL goal for the Colorado Avalanche against the New York Rangers – the team that drafted him.
For Graves, perhaps the only thing bigger than the moment was his smile that followed.
And it looked to be permanent for the rest of the game.
Graves’ unassisted goal in the third period of the Jan. 4 game was the 6th goal in a 6-1 win by the Avalanche over the Rangers. Talking to reporters in the dressing room afterwards he said scoring his first NHL goal was a moment he had dreamed of all his life.
“I know it was the sixth goal, but it felt pretty good,” he said in a post-game interview in the dressing room.
While Graves waited years after being drafted for his chance to play in the NHL, for Graves and his family it’s the experience – not the wait – they’ve been focusing on.
“It’s been surreal,” he told the Tri-County Vanguard in a phone interview from Denver after having played a couple of games. “It’s been awesome for myself and awesome for my family.”
Graves played his first official NHL game with the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 27 against the Vegas Golden Knights. He was recalled by Colorado after defenseman Nikita Zadorov had to leave the lineup due to a lower-body injury.
Since his NHL debut, and prior to the Jan. 4 game, Graves was on the Av’s roster for games versus the Chicago Blackhawks, the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks.
Colorado didn’t get a win in those games, losing all games by one goal – including twice in overtime and in the game versus the Sharks after coming back from a 4-1 deficit for a 5-4 final.
Still for Graves, each time he has laced up his skates he’s done so with the attitude of enjoying the moment, while helping his team.
“It’s been really enjoyable,” he said when asked about his NHL experience. “I’m just trying to take it in, do what I can to help the team and also put my best foot forward and give my best effort to try to help the team.”
A NEW NHL SHOT
On Jan. 4 Graves, playing against the team that drafted him to the NHL, experienced his first NHL win in addition to his first goal.
In 2013 Graves had been a fourth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers in the NHL entry draft – going 110th overall among 211 draft picks that year.
He was just 18 and playing major junior when he was drafted – and not that far removed from his days of minor hockey. In the QMJHL he played with the Prince Edward Island Rocket, the Charlottetown Islanders, the Val-d’Or Foreurs and the Quebec Remparts. Since the 2015-2016 hockey season he’s played in the AHL with affiliate teams of the Rangers and Avalanche, which has included the Hartford Wolf Pack, the San Antonio Rampage and the Colorado Eagles.
The Colorado Avalanche picked up Graves in a trade during the 2017-2018 season.
Those who know Graves know he’s worked very hard to get to where he is in his hockey career.
“People from home are always very supportive.
It’s awesome to know that people are keeping tabs and people are supportive and they’re happy for me. It feels nice and I’m thankful for it.” - Ryan Graves
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
During the NHL games he’s played in, Graves said from Denver that he’s just tried to keep things simple. It’s an approach that’s worked as he’s recorded shots on goal, blocked shots, contributed to scoring opportunities and delivered a highlight-worthy hit in the game against the Blackhawks.
“You just stick to your own game, try not to do too much. For me, that’s making a good first pass, defending well, that’s the keys,” he said. “It’s just playing my own game and trying to improve, trying to keep it simple and doing what I can to help.”
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar has been pleased with Graves’ performance. In a video interview with reporters that was posted to Avalanche TV on Jan. 1, when asked about Graves Bednar had said, “He’s been surprisingly good for me, I think, in a bunch of different ways – physical when it presents itself, but not running out of his way to finish checks . . . just smart contact.
“Good stick in the D-zone . . . Breaks up passes with his stick, gets in shooting lanes, we’ve seen him block shots. Really good at a lot of little different things from a defending standpoint,” Bednar told the reporters. “And then also, I just think his timing on the offensive zone blueline to kind of step into holes and get his shots off, he’s really steady.”
Bednar described his play as “steady, confident, simple and effective.”
“We loved what we saw from him in development camp to training camp, the speed, and felt that we needed some time for him to develop and to go up the road,” the coach told reporters. “What we’ve seen from him in the American Hockey League is he’s an impact player, he drives offence with his work and his tenaciousness. He’s on pucks, he’s able to steal pucks, he uses his speed to get to the net.”
FROM THE AHL TO THE NHL
Asked about the difference of playing in the AHL compared to the NHL, Graves said it’s a big jump.
“At the end of the day it’s still the same game I’ve been playing all my life, but it’s faster, you have to make decisions quicker, guys are better with their sticks. If you see an option, it closes off a lot quicker. You have to trust where people are going to be, and you have to move it more quickly. If you second guess it sometimes things close off and you get yourself in trouble,” he said. “The game moves a lot faster, so you have to be on your toes, make sure you’re thinking clearly and know your options before you get the puck.”
On short notice, and by no means simple travel from Point A to Point B, Graves’ mother Monica Brennan, his dad Ron Graves and Ryan’s girlfriend Clare Casey were all able to catch flights to Las Vegas to be in the stands for his first NHL game. This along with the ton of support he’s been receiving from his hometown of Yarmouth, and elsewhere, has meant a lot to Graves.
“People from home are always very supportive,” he said. “It’s awesome to know that people are keeping tabs and people are supportive and they’re happy for me. It feels nice and I’m thankful for it.”
Meanwhile, asked what his takeaway has been of his NHL experience – that he waited a long time for and dreamed about even longer than that – he said it’s all about adjusting to this level of hockey.
“It’s a quicker game so it’s been an adjustment for me to move quicker, to trust where people are going to be, to keep my game simple and not try to do too much, and not get carried away with the moment,” he said.
“I’m trying to take it in and enjoy it. It’s a special time for me and a special time for my family. It’s been an enjoyable experience and I’m trying to make the best of it.”
Ryan Graves speaks with reporters following his Dec. 27 NHL debut.
You couldn’t wipe the smile from Ryan Graves’ face after he scored his first NHL goal on Jan. 4.