This is not how Ryan's Graham's WHL story was supposed to end.
After three straight seasons outside of the playoffs and a trade to Swift Current, Graham was looking forward to finishing his junior career helping the the Broncos on a post-season run.
Instead he will be cheering the team on from the stands.
The veteran forward will have season ending knee surgery that will keep him out of the lineup no matter how far the Broncos are able to advance.
"We're very sad and disappointed for Ryan," said Broncos coach and director of player personnel Manny Viveiros. "A very big year his 20-year-old year in the WHL he came to us and was playing great hockey. It's an unfortunate incident that happened. The doctors and Ryan made the decision it was best for him to have the surgery as soon as possible so he has an opportunity to rehab the whole summer and possibly be ready for a training camp next fall. There's no question it's a tremendous loss for our hockey team, but Ryan has to take care of his health and that's his #1 priority."
As much as this is a setback for Graham who was looking to do enough to earn an NHL contract after his overage season, the Broncos wouldn't hesitate to recommend him in the future.
"I certainly would," Viveiros said. "He's been to two NHL camps and they really did like him. Unfortunately it's an injury that happened at the wrong time, but if we ever do talk to NHL teams we certainly would endorse him. We think he can be a pro player."
Swift Current dealt a 2017 2nd round bantam draft pick and a conditional 4th round pick in 2018 to Saskatoon for Graham to fill one of their empty 20-year-old slots this season. He fit in remarkably well scoring 12 goals and 11 assists in 21 games mostly on Lane Pederson's wing. That's a top six forward void the Broncos will now have to fill again.
"You can't replace players like that," Viveiros said. "He was a real heavy player for us with speed and the ability to score. On the other side too it's a great opportunity for other players on our team to step up. Not just one person but players as a group."
One player who has stepped up a couple of times in Graham's absence is 2015 1st round bantam draft pick Riley Stotts. He had 2 assists in 2 games on a top line with Glenn Gawdin and Tyler Steenbergen over the weekend. Other players who have spent some time in the top six this season include Kole Gable and Arthur Miller.
"It's an audition time for these players in these positions," Viveiros said. "We're very, very happy with the way Riley responded and played this weekend with that line. That certainly is a positive for him."
It's always a blow to lose one of your best players. However, the Broncos were still among the top teams in the Eastern Conference before they dealt for Graham and his injury won't change their internal expectations.
"It doesn't," Viveiros said. "Not at all. We just continue to keep working everyday and this is another opportunity for someone else to step up in those situations. We still feel we are a good enough team and a deep enough team to survive this."
Graham will be getting surgery soon and should be back to 100% by fall. While he is going through that process he still wants to contribute to the team in some way.
"Ryan is going to stay with our team the rest of our season," Viveiros said. "He wants to be with us and he'll do his rehab with us in Swift Current. We're going to put him to work. We're going to make him an official part of our coaching staff. We're very happy to have him around. He's a fine young man and a great role model for the guys in our room."
Graham finished his WHL career with 140 points in 269 games.
Unfortunately for Broncos fans Graham won't be able to score that big goal or make that big hit at a key moment in a playoff game this spring. He still provided some world class entertainment in his brief stint in a Swift Current uniform and is continuing to show his commitment to his new home.
Now it's up to the rest of the roster to keep pushing towards the playoffs with three very tough tests this week at home against Regina, Medicine Hat and Everett.