Tonight, New York Islanders RW Michael Grabner will return to Vancouver for the first time since being part of last June’s Keith Ballard deal.
(NB: With Grabner in New York and Steve Bernier and Victor Oreskovich in the AHL, only one player from that deal — Ballard — remains with his acquiring team, making it of one of the rare “nobody won” trades in NHL history.)
For the Canucks, Grabner is often viewed as the one that got away. Drafted 14th overall in 2006, the speedy Austrian showed flashes of talent in Vancouver but never the consistency to stick in the bigs. When he was shipped off to and then released by Florida, many figured that was the last they’d hear of Grabner — until he caught on with the Islanders and caught fire. He found his groove, got nominated for the Calder and has scored 34 goals in his last 71 games, prompting teammate Matt Moulson to talk him up to the Vancouver media.
I mean really talk him up. From the Vancouver Province:
“Everyone gives him knocks on his breakaways [Grabner missed two last game vs. Colorado] but I don’t think people understand how fast he’s going,” Moulson said. “That’s half the battle. He’s flying in there every time and in a flash he’s right on top of the goalie. I think that makes it really tough on him.
“But once he starts potting those, he could probably start getting 70 goal seasons.”
“He basically scored all his goals last year in three-quarters of the year. There’s a lot more goals in him,” Moulson said.
Grabner’s on pace for 32 this year (and a whopping six assists, making him a strong Cy Young candidate), so perhaps Moulson was just getting a little ahead of himself with that proclamation. But when given a chance to tone it down, Moulson cranked the hyperbole amp to 11:
“He’s not like other players, and I think you have to understand that if you’re managing him,” Moulson said. “He’s different. He has this rare explosive speed and he has these underrated playmaking skills.
“When I think of someone to compare him with, the only player I can think of is also a Vancouver guy – Pavel Bure.”
I’m not sure if Moulson is serious, or playing this up because of Grabner’s return to Vancouver. Grabner’s a good player and all, but the Russian Rocket comparisons are a tad premature (and I’m not sure they’ll ever mature).
Whatever the case, it’s pretty funny to hear Moulson discuss his teammate the way the Internet discusses Chuck Norris.