And while his improvements in conditioning were readily apparent, the Canucks’ brass didn’t feel they were enough to secure a spot on the roster, let alone anything more than a second look.
But despite suiting up in only two exhibition games before getting cut, Grabner isn’t heading back to Manitoba overly disappointed.
"I know I am still young and the work I put in [this off-season] will still help me during the season,” said Grabner, who now weighs in at 185 pounds, a few pounds lighter than last season. “I am in better shape than I was last year in camp and I felt that on the ice. I was hoping to get in a few more exhibition games but I’m guessing the coaches wanted to see some other guys more and that’s all right. Now I will focus on the season in Winnipeg and hopefully have a good start here.”
And if the native of Villach, Austria would like to achieve his personal goal for the season, he’d better get off to a quick start. Grabner would like to build off his 22-goal rookie campaign and reach the 30-goal plateau in his second kick at the can in the American Hockey League. But perhaps more importantly, he’d like to do what Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault told him to in their closing meeting: be more consistent.
“I’d like to improve my game this year again and show the coaches that I can improve every year and not stop,” he said. “Also with improving my game I hope I can be more consistent and not have too many goalless streaks.”
Judging from what Grabner displayed alongside the Canucks’ 2008 first-round draft pick Cody Hodgson and Dan Gendur – both who recently put pen to paper on their first NHL contracts – in the Camrose prospects tournament, Vancouver’s first-round pick in 2006 is ready to be a dominant force with the Moose. Grabner scored two goals in a 6-3 loss to the Calgary Flames prospects, but is quick to offer praise to his linemates before acknowledging his own success.
“I liked playing with Cody. He has great vision to find the open guys so I just had to use my speed and get to open spots for him to see me. Dan is kind of like me; I think he is fast and skilled and has a good shot. I thought we played well in the game we played together and hopefully we’ll play on the same team in the future.”
Due to Hodgson’s ineligibility to play in the AHL, Grabner won’t be receiving saucers from Vancouver’s newest prospect for at least one more season, and it’s unlikely that he’ll see much time alongside Gendur either. But, he will be surrounded by some pretty skilled players in their own right.
It’s expected that Grabner will see time with the reigning AHL scoring champion and playoff MVP Jason Krog and recently acquired Michel Ouellet, who notched 17 goals with Tampa Bay last season and 19 with Pittsburgh the year before. It goes without saying that he’ll have every opportunity to reach the 30-goal mark, and perhaps surpass it. But above all, Grabner would like to contribute to his team’s success, and he believes that success is indeed in the cards for Vancouver’s AHL affiliate.
“I hope we will have a good season and make it far in playoffs.,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a good team in Manitoba and hopefully we’ll have some chemistry going right away to have a strong start.”
Grabner’s march for 30 continues on October 17th when the Manitoba Moose play host to the Rochester Americans.