There’s been a not so well known prospect making waves in the American Hockey League for the New York Rangers and pretty soon could be a top-four fixture.
Don’t sleep on the name Ryan Graves. The kid has been making big time waves for the New York Rangers AHL affiliate Harford Wolf Pack after not garnering much attention during the draft process.
Graves is a left-handed (sigh) defenseman who stands a solid 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. He was originally taken in the fourth Round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft after posting some small numbers, at least, offensively, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. A less than typical junior career could be the source for the low numbers, paired with a season slowed down by a shoulder injury and ultimately a shoulder surgery (also forcing him to miss Rangers training camp in 2014-15).
Graves was traded not once but twice in his junior career, which is highly unlikely for a junior hockey player. But Graves seemed to find a niche everywhere he went, and that niche seemed to be more on par of a steady defensive defenseman who can provide physical play and penalty minutes.
The knock on Graves throughout his junior career seemed to be his skating, as it as most times with big hulking defenseman. Something that normally happens when a player shoots up in size but his physical maturity has yet to fully peak. Something that can be really difficult to judge from a scouting perspective but many say the Rangers have great value in their fourth rounder from ’13.
“Graves will push some guys in camp” – Gordie Clark, Director of Player Personnel
Certainly encouraging news from an organization that’s lacking the right punch on the defensive side of the ice and is looking to get younger at the position. Graves can certainly add to those factors and certainly look to start cracking the lineup as early as next season.
What also stands out with me is his steady increase in production as well as almost a seamless transition from junior to the AHL. Graves was voted an AHL All-Star his rookie campaign, and even wowed some Syracuse hockey fans winning the Hardest Shot Competition, clocking at a scorching 103.4 MPH.
As always Ranger fans, we need to pull back on the reigns before we get too over hyped on a prospect.
This certainly isn’t the instant fix for the defense right away, and he will probably never be a top pairing defenseman in the NHL. But, similarly to Ryan Gropp, this kid has something that cannot be taught, and that’s size.
He seems to be filling out his frame now and with that, his skating techniques have improved tremendously since his junior days. Another added bonus is his former assistant and defensive coach in Hartford, Jeff Beukeboom, is now holding a similar position with the parent club and I’m sure will go to bat for this kid.
(And if you wanna see him blast one, skip to the 50-second mark.)
When you watch Graves on tape, you can see his smarts in terms of positioning. He always seems to be in the right position, which may aid in making up for his lack of true foot speed. Again, Graves also uses his size, strength and reach to be a heady and sound stay at home defenseman.
Graves has added a touch of offense to his game as he’s matured though, almost hitting double-digit goals in both of his professional seasons with Hartford. If continues to progress like so, I don’t think it’ll be long before he’s at least a seventh defenseman with the Rangers and after a year of seasoning, a fixture on either the third or second pair.
I see a lot of similarities to Graves and Jason Garrison, former Vancouver and now current Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman. Someone who has carved a nice niche as a borderline third mostly second pair guy, who’s able to use his cannon of a slap shot to generate some offense.
- Projection: Second Pair Defenseman
- Projected NHL Arrival: 2017-2018
- NHL Comparable: Jason Garrison