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

Tri-County Vanguard - - Sports - TINA COMEAU THEVANGUARD.CA

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.”

EMILY WADE/ COLORADO AVALANCHE SO­CIAL ME­DIA

Ryan Graves speaks with re­porters fol­low­ing his Dec. 27 NHL de­but.

WITH PER­MIS­SION

You couldn’t wipe the smile from Ryan Graves’ face af­ter he scored his first NHL goal on Jan. 4.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.