© CHRIS RUTSCH PHOTO–HARTFORD WOLF PACK
Yarmouth's Ryan Graves on the ice with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack. Graves is a draft prospect for the NHL New York Rangers.
Former Charlottetown Islanders defenceman enjoying first pro season
What did Montreal Canadien P.K. Subban, Pittsburgh Penguin Evgeni Malkin and Dallas Star Tyler Seguin all have in common in the final round of NHL all-star hardest shot competition?
None of their shots were as hard as the 103.4-mile-per-hour blast former Charlottetown Islanders defenceman Ryan Graves fired off to win the AHL’s hardest shot competition at the all-star skills competition. “I didn’t expect it, but it’s pretty cool,” Graves said.
The 20-year-old New York Rangers draft prospect said it was an honour to be selected for the AHL All-Star Classic. A committee of American Hockey League coaches selected the players. Graves was the only player picked from his Hartford Wolf Pack team.
The six-foot-four, 220-pound defenceman was assigned to the Rangers affiliate team after going deep in the Rangers training camp.
“I’ve been getting good ice time and playing in most situations. But there is still a lot of areas to grow in and improve,” he said. “Everyone is bigger, faster, stronger. . . You have to know what you’re going to do with the puck before you get it. You have to be a lot smarter and be physically ready to play.”
Graves’ play isn’t going unnoticed.
“He always seems to be in the right spot, and has that willingness to block shots,” Wolf Pack assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom, a four-time Stanley Cup winner, wrote in his Beuk’s Blog. “Plus, he’s got a cannon of a shot. Being his coach is pretty simple because first and foremost he has talent, and second of all his work ethic is strong, and he has tremendous character.”
In his first 45 games of the season, Graves had five goals and 10 assists. He said his team is on the playoff bubble, but there’s still a lot of hockey left.
One thing Graves knows for certain is he has a lot of people from home rooting for him.
“The support from home is pretty unreal. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The way people follow our team and the messages that I get, people saying ‘Just keep going’ and ‘Congrats!’ It means a lot.”
Did you know?
1. Graves was a fourth-round draft pick, 110th overall, by the New York Rangers in June 2013.
2. While playing major junior in the QMJHL, Graves played in the Memorial Cup two straight years. In his second showing with the Quebec Remparts he earned all-star honours.
3. Graves grew up playing minor hockey in Yarmouth. In his last minor hockey year with bantam AAA he was the league’s top defenceman.
4. During his New York Rangers training camp last fall he played in an NHL exhibition game against the Philadelphia Flyers.