River Watch: Graham Mink
Thanks to countless injuries at the NHL level, we've been given the chance to see plenty of the organizations youngsters up close and personal. There are however several skaters that call Peoria home that we haven't yet seen up with the NHL ranks, one being Graham Mink.
While a large portion of the members of the Peoria Rivermen are youngsters, Graham Mink is just the opposite. The 31-year-old Mink would actually be the third oldest player on the NHL roster, just behind Ty Conklin (34) and Andy McDonald (33).
The right winger has had a pretty interesting career thus far and has a lot of similarities to one iconic film baseball star - Crash Davis from Bull Durham
College - University of Vermont
Unfortunately, the bulk of the attention Mink received in college was due to issues taking place off the ice.
Mink was a defendant in a hazing lawsuit filed by a former teammate against members of the team in 1999, but the major incident occurred in 2001 when he was involved in an off-campus fight. He plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault in 2003 and went on to serve 30 days in jail.
The incident was the end of Mink's playing days with the University of Vermont.
ECHL - Richmond Renegades (2001-02)
Following his college career, Mink went on to skate in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) with the Richmond Renegades. His time with the Renegades was brief, some 29 games where he amassed 17 points and 78 penalty minutes.
AHL - Portland Pirates, Hershey Bears, Worcester Sharks, Rochester Americans, Peoria Riverman (2001-02 - Present)
Now you can start making your Crash Davis comparisons. Mink has been a journeyman throughout his AHL career and has spent an enormous amount of time in the minors.
He has broken through to the NHL level on three separate instances, but has yet to find a permanent role at the league's top level. Consider these his tastes of what life is like in "The Show", before returning back to his roots in the AHL.
He has had some pretty productive seasons during his AHL run, including the present year with the Rivermen.
: Worcester Sharks - 61 games, 31 goals, 32 assists - 63 points
: Worcester Sharks - 71 games, 24 goals, 31 assists - 55 points
: Hershey Bears - 68 games, 32 goals, 27 assists - 59 points
Unfortunately, his solid performances at the AHL level haven't been rewarded with extended time at the NHL level. As a matter a fact, he has been moved from organization to organization, including a deal that brought him to St. Louis and sent T.J. Fast to Florida's organization.
To date, Mink has been one of the stars in Peoria, especially while a large portion of the roster has been filling in at the NHL level.
: Peoria Rivermen - 60 games (so far), 20 goals, 22 assists, 42 points.
At the very least, Mink has provided some needed veteran leadership on a Rivermen roster that has been picked over by the Blues.
NHL Experience - Washington Capitals
Remember the similarities to Crash Davis? Mink's time at the NHL level was brief - and he must be itching to return after spending year after year in the minors.
While he has skated in over 600+ games at the AHL level, his NHL experience boils down to just seven games with the Washington Capitals.
: Two games, zero points, two penalty minutes
: Three games, zero points, zero penalty minutes
: Two games, zero points, zero penalty minutes
As you can see, his stints in the NHL have been quite brief, and while he hasn't made much of a splash during the opportunities he has been given, the obvious argument is that he hasn't been given a fair chance to excel at the NHL level.
At this stage, Mink's age is rapidly working against him. Now at age 31, Mink has long lost his prospect status and has shifted into more of a role-player in the depths of the organization. We can see this shift taking place as a team such as the Blues elect to bring up youngsters to replace injured skaters rather than Mink.
So what's left for Mink at this stage of his career? For starters, Mink must be at least a bit discouraged that given the plethora of injuries at the NHL level that he hasn't been called up to help out.
Is Mink's career going the route of Crash Davis? Will he remain a solid minor league player that never makes a major splash at the NHL level? These are questions that are yet to be answered, but it is quite clear that time is working against Mink's NHL ambitions.
Personally, I can understand why the team might opt to audition their younger talent as they cope with injuries, but I do hope Mink is able to get a suitable audition in the NHL as well - whether it is with the Blues are another club. He has definitely put in the time and has displayed that he is pretty consistent offensively, all the while offering leadership for newcomers to the AHL system.
It's tough to predict what lies ahead for Mink in his professional hockey career, but we certainly wish him the best.