The Avalanche decided they were satisfied with their NHL roster at this season’s uneventful trade deadline however kept their deadline trade streak alive at now 16 years as they made one trade at the AHL level. That move was to ship out Chris Bigras in a swap of third year pro defensemen on expiring Entry Level Contracts.
In return to the Avalanche is a 22 year old former New York Rangers prospect Ryan Graves, a left shot defenseman with massive size at 6’5 and 226 lbs. Graves was originally the 110th overall pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft by the Rangers.
Before joining New York pro system Graves enjoyed a lengthy career in the QMJHL in which he played for thee organizations; the PEI Rocket (which later became the Charlottetown Islanders), the Val-d’Or Foreurs and the Quebec Remparts. With the latter two clubs Graves participated in the Memorial Cup, one as the QMJHL Presidents Cup champion with Val-d’Or and then the following year as host with Quebec. Graves played 245 games in his major-junior career and scored 86 points with 25 goals plus another 51 playoff games and an additional 19 points.
Although Graves is still only in his third professional season, he has amassed over 200 games in the AHL and has played nearly every game in those three seasons. Despite being an AHL all-star in his rookie season Graves never recieved even one call-up from the Rangers in those three years, which explains how a new opportunity might be a positive for him. He has scored an AHL career total of 12 goals and 62 points with 21 points in the current season. Graves also served as an alternate captain for Hartford in the AHL.
Here below is a shift by shift compilation of Graves’ first game in the Avalanche organization. In a 3-0 loss for the San Antonio Rampage to the San Diego Gulls on Tuesday evening Graves put up no points and four shots on goal. He played about middle pair minutes with some penalty kill time and generally looked solid especially considering he traveled across the country that day for his first game in a new sweater.
In his second contest with the Rampage the following evening Graves consistently played the same solid defensive style. He had two shots on goal and no points in a 3-2 overtime loss to Ontario. Graves should be able to help the Rampage solidify their top four and brings a polished experienced game. He’s a decent skater especially for someone with his size and can close quickly on plays, has a heavy shot from the blue line and can make a good first pass. He defends well and makes smart, quick decisions when there’s breakdowns.
Graves is good AHL depth and could possibly be a call-up option to the NHL if needed, particularly next season. The main question is how does another big left handed primarily defensive defenseman fit the system when there’s already several of them at the Avalanche’s disposal? Mason Geertsen and Duncan Siemens are currently under contract as well as Josh Anderson who could play pro next year and not to mention those at the NHL level like Patrik Nemeth and even Sergei Boikov and Anton Lindholm remain in the mix. Perhaps not all will return next season but it seems like the organization keeps targeting and gathering similar types of players for one particular role.
All in all, early returns on Graves look good and he will show more as he gets comfortable. It’s too bad the acquisition took moving out the prospect with a higher upside and NHL experience in Bigras but that’s not Graves’ issue to contend with. Will be worth watching to see if the Avalanche have giving Graves a look at the NHL level in their plans.