Michael Grabner Is a Pleasant Surprise for the Young Islanders

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2011

Grabner has a team leading 24 goals so far this season
Grabner has a team leading 24 goals so far this seasonJim McIsaac/Getty Images

Michael Who?

I'm sure everyone was asking that question when the New York Islanders picked up Michael Grabner off of waivers on October 5, from the Florida Panthers.

But since then, Grabner has solidified himself among the best forwards on the team and has been on an absolute tear as of late.

"I've had chances to score before, but now they are going in," said Grabner to the New York Daily News. 

The 23 year old Austrian born winger has 11 points in his last five games, including seven goals in the last three games, helping the Islanders to a 4-1 record during the streak.

In what is now his fourth professional season, Grabner is finally showing flashes of the potential that scouts saw when the Vancouver Canucks took him with the 14th overall pick in the 2006 National Hockey League Draft.

“He’s in the right place in the offensive zone," said Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano about Grabner to the Ottawa Citizen before their game against the Senators.  "The puck’s not following him.  He’s getting there because of his work ethic and reading the play develop as it happens.”

For the Islanders, it's the second year in a row of finding that diamond in the rough.

Last season, it was Matt Moulson, who burst on the scene for the Islanders after spending three seasons toiling in the Los Angeles Kings' minor league system.  Moulson, who just signed a three year extension to stay on Long Island two weeks ago, finished the season with a team high 30 goals.

Already through 52 games, Grabner has 33 points and is the top goal scorer on the team with 24 goals, and tied with Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks for most goals by a rookie.

"I certainly don't feel like a rookie," Grabner said to the Toronto Sun. "It has been a roller-coaster ride, but things are settling down."

And adding to his stellar scoring record so far this season, Grabner won the 2011 NHL Fastest Skater competition, part of the NHL All-Star Game SuperSkills event.  He had times of 14.061 and 14.238, beating the rest of the rookie competition.

"I just wanted to go out there and prove I was a fast skater and do my best out there," said Grabner to the Los Angeles Times after the event. "I'm not going to brag about it, but it was nice to win."

Though the Islanders have played some good hockey recently, they are most likely going to miss the playoffs again, extending a drought that began after the 2006-2007 season.

But the play of Grabner this season can't and wont be ignored, and with a healthy Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit from the beginning next season, the Islanders will be thinking they can compete for a Stanley Cup in 2011-2012.