Ryan Graves Foreurs

PROSPECT UPDATE: Ryan Graves Wins QMJHL Championship

It’s been some time since we last had a prospect update here at The New York Rangers Blog. That’s in part because the Rangers have been in midst of a playoff run, and that pretty much makes everything else background noise. That’s also because most of the team’s prospects have already ended their seasons.

But the Rangers are now going to have some time off before their next playoff series (what a concept!) and Ryan Graves’ Val-d’Or Foreurs did something special last night. So let’s talk about him. Much like the Rangers, Graves and Les Foreurs came back in their series and won Game Seven on the road last night, clinching the QMJHL Championship.

Game Six was Graves’ best of the series by far. Down 3-2 in the series, Val-d’Or won 6-3 and Graves was instrumental. Defensively, he was on top of his game. More notably, though was Graves making his rare mark offensively. In the third period while up 3-2, Graves kept a play alive at the point and shot it behind the net. It eventually was moved to his defensive partner, Randy Gazzola, who fired it home, earning Graves an assist. A few minutes later, a faceoff was won back to Graves, who, through a medley of bodies, fired a wrist shot past goaltender Philippe Cadorette glove-side. Graves finished off the night by digging a puck loose behind his net and tossing it to teammate Pierre-Maxime Poudrier, who fired it into the empty net for the win. Here’s video of the goal.

Graves had a few shifts in which he struggled during the second period of Game Seven, but overall he played a solid game as part of a dramatic 4-3 win. Graves was traded to Val-d’Or at the QMJHL trading deadline and, while he did look forward to the move to a contender, I think he was a bit concerned about the transition to a new team and environment. In hindsight, the move was mutually the best thing that could happen to Graves and Val-d’Or. For Graves, playing for Val-d’Or not only suits his needs better, but I think has also challenged him to raise his level of play since expectations for this team have been tremendously high.  As for Les Foreurs, their two best defensemen were Guillame Gelinas and Randy Gazolla, two tiny, offensive-minded players, and they were in desperate need of a defensive-minded guy like Graves who can handle business in his own end. Graves has filled that role perfectly. TVASports’ Anthony Marcotte called Graves the “unsung hero,” saying that he was excellent since the beginning of the series “without making noise.”

Graves and Val-d’Or will battle for the Memorial Cup, which is a round-robin tournament featuring the three winners of the CHL leagues as well as the OHL’s London Knights, who are hosting the tournament. For soccer fans, it’s sort of like junior hockey’s equivalent of the Champions League. It’s a very big deal in Canada and will be broadcasted nationally, and thus Graves will have a chance to improve his stock that much further. Looking long-term, Graves is solidifying himself as a very solid prospect and while it would be ridiculously premature to proclaim him a “steal,” I think he has surpassed the scouting staff’s expectations of where he would be at this point in his development.

 

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