Sometimes you just get lucky. Maybe its something simple at finding money on the ground, or scratching off a winning lottery ticket. Or perhaps its finding something you thought you lost a long time ago. What makes it fun is the unexpected discovery, even if its something you owned the fact did not think you'd see that item again now makes it almost seem like a prize. When the Minnesota Wild used its 7th round pick (191st Overall) in 2011 to select the Ottawa 67's Tyler Graovac it was the NHL equivalent of buying a lottery ticket. I will admit, I do not buy lottery tickets for a very simple reason. I think they're a waste of money. I think you don't win enough to justify their expense, so I never buy them. However, if you buy a ticket you have a chance, albeit a small one to win big. The later rounds of the NHL draft is much the same way. Players drafted beyond the 3rd round have just a 12% chance of making it, which is actually a pretty good percentage in comparison to winning the lottery. Either way, the odds are not in your favor when you draft a player when you did with Tyler Graovac.
With so many great prospect stories to talk about with the Wild, it is totally understandable why many Wild fans know little about the 6'4" center from Brampton, Ontario. I mean when you're part of a prospect pool that features Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Johan Larsson, Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer, Zack Phillips and Mathew Dumba its easy to get lost in the shuffle. There is plenty of time to write stories about these guys, especially if the lockout continues. So why spend a whole article about Tyler Graovac?
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Simply put, the kid is showing he has some tremendous potential.
Sure its his overage season, but he had to wait his turn to be given the prime ice time with the 67's. Injuries also played a role in limiting his impact during his first two seasons where he had the modest totals you see below.
2009-10 52GP 2G 7A = 9pts 17 PIM's -6
2010-11 66GP 10G 11A = 21pts 10 PIM's -4
2011-12 50GP 8G 19A = 27pts 31 PIM's +6
And so far this season…
2012-13 13GP 18G 6A = 20pts 4 PIM's +3
See why some people are getting a little excited over this kid? Graovac is currently the OHL's 8th leading scorer, and its top goal scorer with 14 tallies in just 13 games. The Brampton, Ontario-native has waited behind the likes of Los Angeles Kings' prospect Tyler Toffoli, Florida prospect John McFarland, and Ottawa Senators' prospect Shane Prince. Now that those players have 'graduated' and moved on this gave Graovac the opportunity to show what he can do. Working with 2013 draft eligible Sean Monahan, and Ottawa Senators 1st rounder Cody Ceci, Graovac is now the go-to option for the 67's and his patience has been rewarded.
I have to give credit to Minneapolis Star Tribune's Michael Russo who really seemed impressed by Graovac's skills at the Wild's prospect camp this summer. Graovac dazzled with his ability to dangle around defenders and then use his 6'4", 203lbs frame to protect the puck and then had the hands to get a quality shot on goal. With so many other prospects in the system there is no reason to rush Graovac's development but his strong play has been a pleasant surprise. His overage status made him a natural to assume a leadership position on the team as he wears the assistant captain 'A' for the 67's. He is not a physical player, nor is he a player who is prone to dropping the gloves as his penalty minute totals attest to, but he can drop the mits if he has to.
Not too shabby of a showing by the skilled, right handed centerman.
Graovac had a huge game on Friday, where he contributed 3 goals and 2 assists in an 8-6 win over the Kingston Frontenacs. Its not just Wild fans starting to take notice of Graovac's impressive play, in fact his good start might blossom into making Team Canada for the Under-20 World Junior Championships. He is also dressing (along with Ceci and Monahan) as part of Team OHL where they will be participating in the Super Subway series against Team Russia. Graovac hopes to be wearing the Red & White against Russia in December. You can read more about Graovac's Team Canada chances here.
I think Graovac best projects as a Top 6 forward which looks to be a crowded place if you look at Minnesota's stable of skilled forwards. If there is no real spot open for Graovac when he's ready to make that next big step, then you have a nice tradable asset. Either way its good news for Graovac and good news for the Wild.