Yarmouth's Graves thriving on Colorado Avalanche blue-line
'I just play a simple kind of game and I've had some lucky bounces here and there'
When you think of current NHL players from Nova Scotia, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Brad Marchand will leap to mind.
Now there is another name that might start to enter the conversation.
It may have taken awhile for Ryan Graves to find his NHL groove, but he has solidified a spot on the Colorado Avalanche blue-line.
The 24-year-old defenceman from Yarmouth is turning heads with his steady play and big hits this season.
"I just play a simple kind of game and I've had some lucky bounces here and there," Graves said this week from Denver. "I'm just trying to play things the right way and find my role so I can stay in the NHL."
At six-foot-five and 220 pounds, Graves is using his size and mobility to his advantage.
He grabbed NHL headlines two weeks ago when he crushed Edmonton forward Alex Chiasson with an open-ice body check.
Playing a physical game is just part of Graves's skill set. He's scored three goals in his last six games and now has the best plus-minus rating in the NHL at plus-22.
Monday night in Denver, Graves played one of his best games. He had a goal and an assist and was on the ice for all four of Colorado's goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to Calgary.
"The points and the goals are just something extra really," said Graves, who will be back on the ice Wednesday when Colorado plays at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"The plus-minus is a little bit of luck but I also pride myself on playing good defensively, so I'm happy with that."
Graves played midget hockey in Bridgewater with the South Shore Mustangs. From there he spent four years in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
After playing 2½ seasons on Prince Edward Island, he finished his junior career by winning back-to-back championships with the Val d'Or Foreurs and Quebec Remparts. He was named to the Memorial Cup all-star team in 2015.
Long stint in American Hockey League was frustrating
Following junior, Graves spent 2½ seasons in the American Hockey League because he couldn't crack the lineup of the New York Rangers, the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL entry draft.
But then came the trade that turned his career around.
It was a deal at the NHL trade deadline in 2018 that saw Colorado acquire Graves. After spending part of another season in the AHL, he spent half of last season with the Avalanche and grabbed a full-time roster spot out of training camp this season.
"There were times when I'd be pretty down on myself, especially when someone else would get a call up over you," said Graves. "I think I've been a hard worker through it all and I always believed I would get a chance someday."
Graves is the second player from Yarmouth to make it to the NHL.
Jody Shelley was a rugged forward who played for four NHL teams over a dozen seasons, racking up more than 1,500 minutes in penalties.