“It happened so quickly that I’m still a bit overwhelmed,” Graham said. "(Ferris State) coach (Bob) Daniels watched me a few weekends ago up in Alpena. He stayed another day to see a second game. Two days later, I was given an offer.”
“Derek is just another guy who has worked hard and can now look forward to the next part of his life,” Phantoms coach Bob Mainhardt said of the Schoolcraft native.
Graham becomes the second Phantom to head to Ferris State, joining former Phantom and current sophomore defenseman Evan Case. He has followed the Bulldogs since he began playing hockey at the Mite level.
“I went to their summer hockey camps when I was eight until I was twelve,” Graham said. “They’ve been a top choice of mine for some time.”
With his commitment secured more than a year in advance, Graham will return next fall for a second stint with the Phantoms.
Mainhardt joked, “It breaks my heart that we’ll have him for another season.”
In 51 games this season, Graham has 57 points on 18 goals and 39 assists, tying him for 18th in North American Hockey League scoring. Among his 39 assists include 22 on the power play, tying him for fourth in the NAHL.
Graham has seen numerous parts of his game improve over the course of the season and plans to utilize next season to hone other skills.
“I’m doing pretty well with my vision, distributing the puck and being in power play situations,” said Graham. “I want to get bigger and stronger this summer. But for now, I’d like to be more consistent and improve my shot.”
The Phantoms center has his eyes focused on the ultimate team prize now that his decision on where to play at the next level is taken care of.
“I can begin to relax and move on now,” Graham said. “It gets easier to focus on and work harder towards the next game and, ultimately, a chance at winning a national championship.”