Islander fans, your efforts have indeed paid off.
Michael Grabner, the speedy, electric forward who finished with 34 goals and 52 points this year, has been chosen as a candidate for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the league's top rookie.
Grabner wasn't the only first-year to impress. The 2010-2011 NHL season featured one of the more intriguing rookie crops in recent memory, which included Logan Couture, Jeff Skinner, P.K. Subban, Corey Crawford, Cam Fowler, James Reimer, John Carlson, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, to name a bunch.
Each made a profound impact on his respective hockey club.
This may very well have been the top class since 2005-06, the year Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin made their NHL debuts.
In fact, when Grabner hit the 30-goal mark, he became the first rookie to do that since "the Great Eight."
He found the back of the net more than any rookie in Islander history, aside for Mike Bossy.
The Austrian's big break came in February, when he tallied 10 goals and six assists for an astonishing 16 points in 14 games. The NHL rewarded Grabner for his strong play with Rookie of the Month honors.
As far as the entire year is concerned, San Jose's Logan Couture and Carolina's Jeff Skinner were considered shoe-ins, but there was much debate as to who the third candidate would be, for good reason. There were several players who deserved consideration, no question whatsoever.
One could argue that Cam Fowler, John Carlson and P.K. Subban all performed admirably at the point this year, while Corey Crawford deserves some marks for helping Chicago back into the playoff picture.
Each of those guys are going to have successful careers, Calder or not.
So, what distances Michael Grabner apart from the competition?
Well, his skating ability, for one thing. And for another, Grabner can fill any possible role, whether it be killing penalties (second in the NHL with six shorthanded markers), playing strong defensively (plus-13 rating) or scoring goals (34 in 76 games this season).
He really is the Islanders' utility man, the hockey equivalent of an all-in-one.
In terms of his offensive skills, if you needed to score a goal and had to choose from any rookie to get it done, I'd say Grabner would be the best man for the job. There's not one first-year talent who creates as many scoring chances for himself as the 23-year-old from Villach, Austria.
To me, that's why he's being considered over the other potential candidates. He's the most explosive player in that talent pool.
Whether or not he'll win the award (while doing so would be nice) is not the most important thing. The fact that Grabner's in the running should be viewed as a tremendous accomplishment, especially considering how far he's come.
Make no mistake, the Isles and their fans have been rewarded amply.
Best of luck to Michael Grabner, with sincere wishes that he is too.
Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter: @nyifaceoff360
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