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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
While most NHL teams were focused on reducing their rosters as the final day of Training Camp approached, the Isles instead acquired Michael Grabner off of waivers to bring their roster total to 25 skaters. Since the Islanders still needed to trim their roster by two, the 23-year-old winger was happy the team decided to give him another chance to play in the NHL this season.

Coming from the Florida Panthers, the 6’1” 177-pound winger only saw time in Training Camp and Preseason after being traded in a draft day transaction by the Vancouver Canucks.

“I didn’t have a good camp in Florida, but it’s another chance for me and I’m glad they (Islanders coaches and Garth Snow) took a chance on me,” Grabner said. “Hopefully I can pick up my game and help a lot here.”

Even though the Villach, Austria native, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, is happy to be given another shot, Grabner knows this will not be any easy road ahead. There will be a lot of hard work before he becomes a solid part of the Islanders lineup.

“This team is really young and talented, so it’s going to be so tough to make this lineup,” Grabner said. “I just have to work hard and show what I can bring to the table.”

Scott Gordon, the Islanders head coach, admittedly didn’t know a lot about the team’s most recent transaction, saying he relied on what coaches and general managers from other clubs had to say about the forward, of which he heard some good things.

Originally drafted by the Canucks in the first round (14th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Grabner made his NHL debut during the 2009-10 season, seeing time in 20 games for the Canucks, notching five goals and six assists for 11 points and eight penalty minutes. The 6’1” 177-pound winger was then acquired by the Panthers on the day of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Before being called up by Vancouver, the forward played 38 games during the 2009-10 season for the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League where he tallied 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points and six penalty minutes.

In the two seasons prior, the winger played in 140 games for Manitoba, registering 52 goals and 40 assists for 92 points and 28 penalty minutes, coming shy of a 50 point season by just two tallies during the 2008-09 season. That same season, Grabner saw time in 20 playoff games, tallying 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points.

Prior to being drafted, Grabner played for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, registering two 50 point seasons. In three seasons, the forward played in 180 games, tallying 88 goals and 41 assists for 129 points and 80 penalty minutes.

Although Grabner’s stats could stand for themselves, Gordon did say that the winger is in a very similar situation to Rob Schremp last year at this time. Where Schremp came to the Islanders after playing a quick seven games (over three seasons) with the Edmonton Oilers, Grabner only played 20 games for Vancouver before he was traded. As a result, neither player was given much ice time and didn’t have the best opportunity to develop their skills.

“I think that he’s in a situation where in Vancouver it was tough for him to crack the lineup, and just like last year with Rob Schremp coming in here, he’s not going to get any better opportunity than probably here just because of the fact we lost Kyle (Okposo) and there’s some room. So what he does with it is going to be up to him, but certainly it’s a good situation for him.”

On Tuesday, Gordon watched video of Grabner’s goals from last year and on Wednesday morning he watched the first period of one of the Florida Panthers preseason games, trying to get a feel for the player. The Islanders head coach also made sure to watch Grabner on the ice during his first practice session with the team.

Immediately you’ll notice his skating. He made some plays today in practice that show his skill level, so being able to put it all together in a game, we’ll find out soon enough. - Scott Gordon
“Immediately you’ll notice his skating,” Gordon said. “He made some plays today in practice that show his skill level, so being able to put it all together in a game, we’ll find out soon enough.”

According to Gordon, the right wing has already been told he will not play in the first two games of the 2010-11 regular season so that they can give him a little time to get used to the Islanders system.

“We want to give him a chance to get acclimated to our practice, our style, our systems. That way he can just worry about asking some questions, seeing some games, and also give us an opportunity to take a look at Nino (Niederreiter) and we’ll reevaluate it after the weekend.”
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