Acquired from the New York Islanders just last week, Michael Grabner could turn out to be Toronto’s most impressive
offseason preseason acquisition. A blindingly fast skater, the 27-year old Grabner arrives in The Six to shore up the right side of the roster and help kill penalties. Heading into the final year of his current five-year deal, Grabner is also a prime candidate to be flipped for assets down the road – a team building/team dismantling tactic that Nations Overlord and handsome man Thomas Drance discussed yesterday.
Read more about the Leafs’ latest acquisition past the jump…
A native of Villach, Austria, Grabner played for his hometown VSV EC in Austria’s top men’s league when he was only 16-years old, but chose to move on the following year and join the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. In three seasons, Grabner lead the team in goalscoring twice and scored more than twice as many goals as he did assists. Displaying tremendous top speed and an ability to bury the puck, the Vancouver Canucks made Grabner the 14th overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft following his second season in the Dub.
Upon turning pro, Grabner would spend two full seasons with the Manitoba Moose before making the jump and joining the Canucks. Splitting time in his third full season between the AHL and NHL, his 11 points in 20 points didn’t appear to be good enough of an audition for Vancouver to keep him on the roster. Sending him through waivers, the Canucks lost Grabner for nothing by a claim from the New York Islanders.
He then scored 34 goals in his first full NHL season.
Ok, so it’s not like Grabner exactly became a star on the Island – his scoring clip would drop year-after-year in four seasons with New York, and he’d eventually get traded to the Leafs for a rather large package of low-end prospects – but the fact that he scored 34 right after Vancouver let him go just makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.
What to Expect in 2015-16
I envision Grabner player all the way up and down the right wing for the Leafs this season. I bet he’ll get reps with guys like James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri on the top line in hopes of shoring up their defensive shortcomings, and I bet Grabner will also find himself relegated to fourth line duty at times when Babcock likes the look of Matthias or Panik more on any given night. Looking at the HERO Chart above, Grabner certainly looks like a solid third line option.
That’s not necessarily an indictment of Grabner’s skills either. One of the fastest skaters on the planet, Grabner is also known as a quality penalty killer who can quickly take away room from opposing players. If he’s not scoring, he’s versatile enough to still play an important team role. He’ll chip in a few points here and there – 30 on the season isn’t an unreasonable expectation – but Grabner will likely do it as a middle-six option on the wing and be leaned heavily upon in special teams situations.
- U20 D1/A World Junior Championships Bronze Medal (2005)
- NHL All-Rookie Team (2011)
- IIHF D1A World Championship Silver Medal (2012)
- Lead Sochi Olympics in Goals Scored (2014)