Recently called-up Michael Grabner will make his NHL debut tonight tonight when the Canucks play the Flames. The speedy winger has been thrown right into the fire, playing the club’s chief rival on the top line with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows. Grabner will never get a better opportunity to succeed than this to finally prove he’s NHL worthy and he’d better excel or there may not be many chances left for the young Austrian sniper.
Lets review. He was the Canucks’ first pick, 14th overall in the 2006 entry draft. He currently sits as the only forward taken in the first round to have yet to play an NHL game. Players picked behind him include many youngsters already making a significant impact in the NHL: Claude Giroux, Simeon Varlamov, Patrik Berglund, Nick Foligno, Milan Lucic, Steve Mason and Cal Clutterbuck. Last season, he lead the Manitoba Moose in goals, notching 30 in 66 games. He has never been able to translate that success at the NHL level, preseason included. He played in a team high seven preseason games this year, scoring zero goals and one lone assist. Just for some perspective, that put him 20th (20th!) in scoring on the team.
Grabner is now 22 years old, not as young as he used to be, and is getting a chance with a team that has Daniel Sedin, Pavol Demitra and Jannik Hansen out of the lineup for significant periods of time. If he plays anywhere half decently, he should be given a long look in a scoring role. Will he succeed? Don’t bet on it. Personally, I would have liked to see Sergei Shirokov back. Shirokov grossly outplayed Grabner in the preseason and has more points in Manitoba. If Grabner can go from brutal in the preseason last month to good in the regular season, I will be pleasantly surprised.
(A little motivation for Grabner)