Tyler Graovac was a seventh round pick, probably because he only tallied 21 points in 66 games in his pre-draft year season. Still, Minnesota opted to take a chance on him, probably because of his size. The season after being drafted, he increased his point production to 27 points in 50 games before exploding in his final junior season with 73 points in 60 games. In his second season playing professional hockey, he continues the trend he started in junior, of building on his previous season. Even with the terrible start Iowa had to their year, he’s already scored 17 points in just 22 games, and looks to do much better than the 25 points he scored in 64 games last year.
Graovac is deft at cycling the puck. He’s strong along the boards, but better than that, he’s willing to use his size to power away from the boards to get the puck into higher percentage shooting areas. He also doesn’t give up on a play. If the first thing he tries doesn’t create a scoring opportunity, he'll try something else. He is also a hard worker, which makes him a useful penalty kill contributor. Scouts watching him in junior mentioned that he needs to improve his skating.While it's not surprising that a player who is 6'4" would lack maneuverability, he does seem to have decent speed.
Graovac (wearing number 4) helps create this goal by getting separation from the Oklahoma City defenders and staying in a scoring area. By staying open to receive a pass, he helps out Hagel along the boards. Even better, he shoots the puck when he gets it. He doesn't score, but the rebound goes into a great scoring area for his teammate, Mitchell who also shoots and doesn’t score. Finally, the chaos created by these two shots allows Hagel to put the puck in the net. But this goal is not created without Graovac’s original shot and it’s not created without all three forwards working as a unit. It’s common to see Graovac waiting in that area of the ice, giving his teammates options. This sort of goal isn't exactly gritty, but it’s the kind of play that develops out of hard work.
Tyler Graovac is a prospect who Wild fans should get used to hearing about because he has a diverse skill set, can play at high skill levels, and with skilled players and still doesn’t mind playing physical on occasion. For Iowa, he plays on both the power play and the penalty kill and is comfortable in both roles. Rather than continuing to call up veteran players to play on Minnesota’s fourth line, I would really like to see the Wild call up guys like Graovac and Mitchell and Schroeder or even Bulmer or Gabriel. Graovac especially seems ready to see if he can fit onto an NHL roster because he is a good hockey player in addition to having a lot of size. I’m not saying that he deserves to be on the Minnesota Wild if all of the forwards are healthy, but with his competent defensive play, he fits onto the current Minnesota Wild fourth line in a way that Stu Bickel or Stephane Veilluex just don’t. Minnesota’s fourth line succeeds because they can hold the puck in the offensive zone. Guys like Graovac aren’t just space fillers capable of only playing fewer than five minutes per game. Minnesota is a better team when the fourth line players have offensive zone competency. Tyler Graovac is quickly becoming a guy who the Wild could look to in injury situations, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him make his NHL debut sometime this year. To get a possible NHLer in the 7th round is fantastic! So far, Graovac is improving and demonstrating that he can be a competent, consistent, and well-rounded forward in the AHL.