Michael Grabner joins Logan Couture of the Sharks and Jeff Skinner of the Hurricanes in the running for the Calder trophy this season. He was third in rookie scoring with 52 points and first in goals with 34. His six shorthanded goals and 25 even strength goals are quite impressive stats, and one cannot forget that he won the fastest skater contest at the All Star weekend back in January.
As has been said many times, the Florida Panthers have to be kicking themselves. Grabner simply didn’t make the cut in training camp, and he was waved by Florida. In turn, Garth Snow took a chance and picked him up from the waver wire to join the Islanders shortly after the start of the regular season.
What was, to me, amazing was how Grabner just seemed to slowly pick up steam as the early part of the season unfolded. To be honest, I personally would have never guess that he’d end up with 34 goals by season’s end, even as recently as December. In fact, early on, his ice time was fairly limited and we only saw glimpses of his incredible skating speed.
Suddenly, though, especially after the All Star game, Michael Grabner emerged as a dominating force. Being put on a line with Frans Nielsen and then being joined by Kyle Okposo seemed to provide a very noticeable spark and chemistry for him and his line mates. For a time, Grabner was scoring almost every game, and he literally took over games with his scoring chances and in regularly finding the twine. I can recall a game against the Sabres in which he scored his hat trick, including the game winner in overtime. I think, at that point, for me, it finally hit me just how much of a steal it was for Snow to have snagged him off wavers.
I don’t know if he will win the Calder. Logan Couture and Jeff Skinner are some serious competition for the honor. Nevertheless, I think he has just as good a shot as the others. If you consider the full body of work and look back at the beginning of the season, what Grabner accomplished only is more impressive. During the last half of the season, it seemed that he was the most consistent scorer of the trio.
In any event, the winner of the Calder will be announced at the NHL awards in Los Vegas in June. What I also liked was the fact that Grabner gave the credit to his line mates and the team for his success. Also, he spoke of the “guys and the locker room” and seemed more impressed by the accomplishments of the Islanders as a group than worrying about whether or not he will win the Calder. Whether he does or not, I think it will make next season even more exciting to watch him play.
Good luck, Grabs!
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