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Grabner named finalist for Calder Trophy

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
The 2010-11 season just keeps getting better for Islanders forward Michael Grabner. From his first All Star Game and Fastest Skater title, to the birth of his first son and now the announcement that he has been named a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy, it’s been a wild year.

“It’s really exciting,” Grabner said. “It’s a nice milestone. It shows a lot about the teammates that I have here too. It’s not just me. I think it shows a lot of talent we have in this locker room.”

The 23-year-old rookie will walk the second red carpet of his young career on June 22 in Las Vegas before attending the NHL Awards Ceremony, where he will find out if he has been named rookie of the year.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins blocks a shot as teammate Zbynek Michalek #4 and Michael Grabner #40 of the New York Islanders look for the rebound on April 8, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
His first steps on the red carpet came earlier this season, prior to Grabner recording the two fastest times in the Bridgestone Fastest Skater Competition during All-Star Weekend, where he was named the NHL’s fastest skater.

That speed helped the Villach, Austria native in a lot of crucial game situations. Finishing the season with a +13 rating and scoring a rookie best six shorthanded goals, he proved that he’s a dynamic two-way player. A designation usually reserved for veteran players, Grabner averaged 1:31 of time on ice while shorthanded and ultimately placed second in the entire league by recording just one shortie less than his linemate Frans Nielsen.

“Michael has proved that he’s very capable of playing in all kinds of game situations,” Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said. “His speed ranks amongst the best in the league and is a key factor in his offensive production this season.”

Grabner is also an active threat while playing at even strength. Twenty-six of his goals this season were scored while playing five-on-five, while two of his biggest rivals for the Calder, Jeff Skinner of Carolina and Logan Couture of San Jose recorded 25 and 22 even strength goals respectively.

While Grabner said he hopes to be named the rookie of the year, he knows he has tough competition, amongst them being the 18-year-old Skinner and power play specialist Couture.

“When you look at the stats, there are a lot of great rookies this year,” Grabner said. “Goalies, d-men, they’re all up there, so I think it’s a tough rookie class and there are going to be a lot of young good players for the next couple years.”

Michael Grabner #40 of the New York Islanders fights Ben Lovejoy #6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the puck on April 8, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
At the end of the season, Grabner finished - amongst NHL rookies - first overall in goals scored (34) and third overall in points (52). But he was sure to mention, his success wouldn’t have been possible without his teammates.

“I give a lot of credit to my linemates (Nielsen and Kyle Okposo) for the success we had,” Grabner said. “It’s obviously nice if I would win it but if I don’t, I won’t lose any sleep over it. I know what we have in this room and that’s more important going in to next year.”

If this is how his first year went, imagine what next year will be like.
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