YARMOUTH, N.S. – The Colorado Avalanche suddenly have a lot more fans in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
This is because the Avalanche have picked up Yarmouth defenceman Ryan Graves in a trade from the New York Rangers.
Graves tells the Tri-County Vanguard he’s looking forward to a fresh start with a new organization.
“I’m excited about the trade,” he says. “I’m not sure what impact this will have on my career, only time will tell. But I’m excited to be part of the Avalanche organization."
“A fresh start is always a good thing and I hope to be able to earn a spot on the Avalanche roster,” says the 22-year-old.
Graves was a fourth-round pick (#110) for the Rangers in the June 2013 NHL entry draft. He signed his entry-level contract with the Rangers in March 2014. After finishing his hockey career in the QMHJL – his last Q season was with the Quebec Remparts in 2014-2015 – he had been playing for the Rangers’ AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Park since the 2015-16 season. He had 21 goals and 41 assists with that team.
Graves went deep in Rangers training camps but was never able to crack the regular-season roster. In the fall of 2017 he scored a goal with the Rangers in an NHL pre-season game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Graves, who grew up playing minor hockey in Yarmouth, continues to chase his NHL dream.
“Going to a new team, there is always a lot of unknown, but I will embrace whatever role they see me in and continue to work towards my unlimited goal of playing in the NHL,” he says about the trade. He’s now been assigned to the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage.
Asked what his takeaway is from being with the Rangers organization, Graves says, “I’m very grateful for my time with the Ranger organization. I know it’s cliché, but they truly are first class. I met a lot of great people along the way and I was treated very well throughout my time there. I will always be grateful for my time there and my first experience in pro hockey.”
Graves’ parents are excited for this new opportunity for their son.
“He has always dreamed of playing in the NHL so I hope this trade will help him to fulfil his dream,” says his mother, Monica Brennan. “Like any other mom we want our children to be happy and to fulfill their dreams when they can. I couldn't be more proud.”
Ron Graves also sees this as a good fresh start for his son.
“I’m happy. I felt that Ryan needed a new start. There was something about Ryan that they didn't like in New York. I think a change is good for him in his career,” he says. “The Avalanche is a young team. There’s a good chance that Ryan could fit into their team.”
Asked if it’s discouraging that Ryan hasn't yet played in a regular season NHL game, his father says it is.
“I thought they would have at least tested him (in New York),” he says.
Graves feels his son plays his best hockey when he is contributing both offence and defence to his team, as opposed to just being a one-dimensional player providing defence. Lately, he says, that hadn’t been his role on the Wolf Pack.
“It kind of took the wind out of his sails,” he says.
Asked if he’s an Avalanche fan now, Ron Graves says, “I am. You’ve got to go with the flow.”
There is familiarity on the Avalanche roster for Ryan Graves in Nova Scotian Nathan MacKinnon, who was selected first overall by the Avalanche in the 2013 NHL draft.
“Nathan and I played on a few spring league teams together growing up and also played together during the Canada Games,” Graves says.
Another Avalanche player, Blake Comeau, can trace family ties to southwestern Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, asked about the support he always receives from home, Ryan Graves says, “The continued support I get from people in Yarmouth always amazes me. I’m not around a lot anymore, but I still get messages and when I’m home people are so supportive. It’s exactly why I’m proud to call Yarmouth home.”
4 things to know about Ryan Graves
1. In 2016-17, he topped the Wolf Pack defencemen in points, goals and assists (8-22-30 in 76 games played), and finished tied for fourth overall on team in assists.
2. He also led team blueliners, and finished second overall on his team, with 191 shots on goal, which was good for third-most among AHL defencemen.
3. He won the hardest shot contest at 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Skills Competition with a drive of 103.4 MPH for Eastern Conference team. Had he shot that same shot in the NHL skills competition that same year, he would have finished third overall.
4. Graves was one of three defencemen recalled by the Rangers in the spring of 2016 during the playoffs. He didn’t see the ice as the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Still, Graves told this newspaper at that time, “I'm honoured to be called up as an extra for the playoff run. Even if I don't get into a game it will be a great experience to be around the team at this time of year."