'Blades Secure Pair of Defensemen to Boost Backend for 2019-20
ESTERO, Fla. - Florida Everblades General Manager Craig Brush, along with head coach Brad Ralph, announced on Tuesday that the team has agreed to terms with defensemen Jacob Graves and Aaron Harstad for the 2019-20 season.
With the addition of Graves and Harstad, who each bring more than 100 games of professional experience, Florida now has six defensemen for the upcoming campaign.
Graves, 24, enters his fourth season as a pro and comes to the 'Blades after splitting last season between the Norfolk Admirals and Reading Royals. The Barrie, Ontario, native played 45 games total in the ECHL in 2018-19, suiting up in 32 for the Admirals and 13 for the Royals. He finished with four goals, five assists and 84 penalty minutes.
"Jacob is a competitor, he works extremely hard and he's difficult to play against," Ralph said. "He'll add to our size and toughness, and he's another great high character teammate that we'll rely on for big minutes."
Graves, who has played in 78 career ECHL games and 42 career AHL contests, boasts a pair of championships on his resume. Both of those titles came with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights in the 2015-16 season, his final campaign before turning pro. After starting that season with the Oshawa Generals, Graves was then acquired by London and helped lead the Knights to an OHL Championship and Memorial Cup. He played in 281 career OHL contests over five seasons and racked up three goals and 42 points.
Harstad, 27, joins the 'Blades after spending the 2018-19 season in Denmark with the Aalborg Pirates. The Stevens Point, Wisconsin, native posted 10 points (1g-9a) in 37 games with the Pirates and logged a plus-minus rating of +16.
"Aaron is a big, strong, mobile defender," Ralph said. "He'll bring experience and motivation to our group. He is excited to be a part of the Everblades community and family."
Prior to the season in Europe, Harstad played three full seasons in the AHL and ECHL from 2015-18, logging ice time in 28 AHL contests and 115 ECHL tilts. His best season in that span was the 2016-17 campaign, one that saw him notch 25 points (5g-20a) in 53 ECHL games.
Harstad, who stands at 6 feet 2 inches and weighs 198 pounds, also owns a junior hockey championship. He helped guide the Green Bay Gamblers to the Clark Cup in his first full season in the USHL in 2009-10. Harstad recorded 29 points (9g-20a) in 108 career games with the Gamblers and went on to post 30 career points (9g-21a) in 127 career games at Colorado College from 2011-15.
Opening Night presented by Hertz is Saturday, Oct. 19, when the Everblades host the Norfolk Admirals at Hertz Arena.
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