COMMENTARY | It shouldn't come as a big surprise when a former first-round draft pick, who scored 34 goals in his rookie season, leads his team in scoring through the first few games of the season.
After all, the talent is there. But Michael Grabner, who was selected 14th overall in the 2006 NHL entry draft, has opened people's eyes with his strong play for the New York Islanders in the early going of 2013-14. He scored the club's first two goals of the season in a 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on October 4 and dished out three assists in a 6-1 thrashing of the Phoenix Coyotes on October 8. Through the Isles' first five games, the speedy winger has two goals and a club-best seven points.
What's most impressive about Grabner's fast start is that he has five assists. He collected only five helpers in 45 games last season. Grabner's early-season success has earned him, at least temporarily, a promotion to the top line with rising superstar pivot John Tavares. It's a bold move and ringing endorsement by the Islanders, as he replaces Matt Moulson on the left side. Mouslon, who formed a dynamic duo with Tavares, logged three straight 30-goal seasons before lighting the lamp 15 times in the strike-shortened campaign of 2013.
Grabner's explosive speed and ability to create scoring chances helped him find the back of the net 70 times over the previous three seasons. That's more goals in the same time period than recognizable names such as Scott Hartnell, Dustin Brown and Alexander Semin. But the 26-year-old Grabner remains arguably one of the game's underrated forwards, and there's room for improvement.
Claimed off waivers by the Islanders in 2010, Grabner scored 26 even-strength goals and six shorties in his rookie season, but regressed in his second full year in the league when he scored 20 goals and was a minus-18. He rebounded last season and was on pace for another 30 goals over a full campaign.
There's no telling how much damage he'd do playing with Tavares, but Grabner has the ability to make a difference from anywhere on the ice. So far this season, he's making a big difference for the Islanders.
Adam Martini is a lifelong fan of the New York Islanders. He is also a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience writing about amateur and professional sports, including the New York Giants for Yahoo Contributor Network.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- New York Islanders
- Michael Grabner
- John Tavares