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Grabner having top season for waiver-wire pickup

NHL.com @NHL
It was Oct. 3, 2010 when the Florida Panthers decided Michael Grabner wasn't worth a roster spot and placed the 22-year-old on waivers.

Two days later -- on Grabner's birthday -- the New York Islanders claimed him, and he's been the gift that keeps on giving this season.

Grabner is 12th in the NHL and leads all rookies with 31 goals. He has 22 goals in his last 32 games and is a major contender for the Calder Trophy with 48 points, second among rookies behind Carolina's Jeff Skinner, who has 53.

"I don't really care about that," Grabner said earlier this season. "I'm not looking into the stats. I'm just trying to do my role here, play my game and try to improve and help the team get some wins."

When it comes to players claimed off waivers, Grabner is having perhaps the best season ever.

Kyle Wellwood of the Vancouver Canucks -- the team that originally drafted Grabner before trading him to Florida -- scored 18 goals as a waiver pickup in 2008-09 after the Toronto Maple Leafs let him go. Chris Kunitz had 19 goals with the Anaheim Ducks in 2005-06 after he was waived by the Atlanta Thrashers.

Goaltender Michael Leighton was a waiver wire savior for the Philadelphia Flyers last season, winning 16 games while Brian Boucher and Ray Emery were injured. The castoff of the Carolina Hurricanes got the Flyers to within two victories of their first Stanley Cup since 1975.

A trip to the playoffs isn't in the cards for Grabner, but the future is bright for the Islanders with the young speedster starting to figure out the NHL.

"As the year goes on you can feel his confidence growing," defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "When he first got here you knew he was fast, but as the year's gone on and he's had some success, you can tell … he's doing moves coming in 1-on-1 at full speed that he wouldn't have tried or wouldn't have been able to do a couple months ago. You're almost cheating in 1-on-1 drills, trying to get your feet going and he's going straight up the ice on you and you can't catch him."
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