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Colorado Avalanche Top 25 Under 25 Number 15: Ryan Graves

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With injuries on the blue line, Ryan Graves will be given every opportunity to make the Avalanche out of training camp

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eleven writers and 480 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2019 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.

Welcome to T25U25, Ryan Graves.

Unranked last year, the 24-year-old defenseman is sitting at no. 15 heading into a season where he holds a legitimate chance of spending a significant amount of time on the NHL roster.

He is sitting in a similar position as our no. 16 player, AJ Greer in that they both just signed one year contracts and are entering into a make-or-break season with the hopes of being rewarded with a long contract next summer. In July, Graves and the Colorado Avalanche avoided arbitration by agreeing on a one year contract that will pay him $750,000 in the NHL and $350,000 in the AHL. He is no longer waiver exempt, so that makes the Avs less likely to try to send him to the AHL.

Graves, who shares a name with the former Uber CEO, came to Denver in a February 2018 trade with the New York Rangers. He had been playing with their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack, where he was an All-Star in 2016. After two and a half seasons in Hartford, Graves had played 207 games and scored 62 points.

In 2018-2019, Graves started the season in Loveland with the Colorado Eagles. Graves played 32 games for the Eagles, and recorded seven assists and two goals. That was the first time since 2016-2017 that he recorded a positive plus/minus, coming in at +4.

His time there was bisected as he joined the Avs for 26 games from December 27- March 24.

The Nova Scotia native made his NHL debut against the Las Vegan Golden Knights on Dec, 27, 2018, and scored his first NHL goal against the New York Rangers on Jan. 4, 2019. In his 26 game stay in the NHL, Graves scored two goals (the other one coming on Feb. 12, against the Toronto Maple Leafs), and recorded three assists.

In those 26 games, Graves only sat for two penalty minutes, a remarkable number. For a guy looking to prove himself in the NHL, he was able to avoid big hits that get him in trouble, and draw opponents attention. He could stand to be a bit more aggressive, but he presents himself as a capable playmaker who doesn’t have to get physical to get his way. Graves’s lack of physicality also protects him form injuries and helps ensure he can be on the ice for all of his shifts each night.

Graves is getting old to be a rookie, so this is probably his last season with a legitimate shot at a roster spot. At 6’5’’, he is a big, strong left-handed defender who can make plays, offensively and defensively. Look out for him this fall, as he plays for his NHL life in Colorado.