Entering the NHL as a top draft pick comes with immense pressure. As the NY Islanders endured with Mat Barzal, the organization and fans alike expect you to become the league's next big star as the franchise looks to improve on what was likely a difficult previous season. Now imagine being 18 or 19 years old in this situation, possibly living thousands of miles from home in an unfamiliar city. That's the position the Arizona Coyotes 2022 third-overall pick Logan Cooley will be in as he begins his career with the Desert Dogs.
Cooley, who was slated to return to the University of Minnesota for his sophomore season, recently had a change of heart, electing to take his game to the highest level. Aside from assimilating with his new teammates, Cooley, who grew up in Pittsburgh, will make a home for himself in the arid air of Arizona.
It's not uncommon for NHL rookies to shack up for a year or so with a team veteran, as Barzal did with Dennis Seidenberg and John Tavares with Doug Weight. Bringing in the new kid on the block to live with their families allows young players still in their teens to become more comfortable living in a family setting, as opposed to on their own.
As per Craig Morgan of PHNX Sports, former Islander Michael Grabner is taking in Cooley to live with himself, his wife Heather, and their son during his rookie campaign. Grabner finished his NHL career with the Coyotes, playing two seasons in the desert before having his contract bought out in 2020. Before his time in the Southwest, Grabner spent five seasons with the Isles, including a 34-goal performance in his first year with the team.
Grabner certainly understands the importance of being in a family setting in unfamiliar territory. A native of Austria, Grabner made his way to North America in 2004, joining the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Living with a billet family during his three seasons in Spokane, Grabner wanted to thank the family who cared for him as a teenager in a memorable way.
In 2016, while playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Grabner purchased two tickets and transportation to Super Bowl 50 for Rob and Rachel McCann to see Rachael's favorite team, the Denver Broncos, capture their third Lombardi Trophy.
Perhaps hosting Cooley is a way for Grabner to give back in a way that was provided to him at a young age. Cooley, a smooth skater himself, will likely learn a thing or two from Grabner about getting behind defenders and receiving a stretch pass for a breakaway, hoping for better results on capitalizing. Cooley may be the young buck in town, but Grabner, now 35, probably still has a step or two on the 19-year-old.