Playing on John Tavares’ wing can be a boon for one’s career (just ask Matt Moulson), so it’s not surprising that one of the Islanders’ big offseason acquisitions, Mikhail Grabovski, is welcoming the opportunity — even if it means moving from his natural center position.
“It’s always good to play with good players,” Grabovski said, per Newsday. “It’s whatever the coaches think. I’m happy wherever they put me.”
Grabovski will man the left wing tonight on the Tavares-Kyle Okposo line when the Isles take on the ‘Canes at Nassau. It’s a significant role change for the 30-year-old; when he and another ex-Leaf, winger Nikolai Kulemin, inked with New York this summer, many assumed they’d be paired together on the club’s second line with Grabovski manning the middle.
That said, it’s not like Grabbo is completely inexperienced playing left wing — he skated there in Washington last year, on a makeshift line with Alex Ovechkin on the right and Jay Beagle at center. Grabovski, a three-time 20-goal scorer, said he enjoyed the experience.
“I play before long time ago on the wing, just simple play,” he explained, per the Washington Post. “It’s good for me to find my game play wing right now, just feel more comfortable, have a puck and go.”
It’ll be interesting to see who fills out the Isles’ top line this season. Moulson was the guy for years until he was traded to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek, who was instantly plugged in Moulson’s spot and performed well. During one stretch last season, the Vanek-Tavares-Okoposo line combined for 72 points in 22 games.
Grabovski isn’t the only Isles forward auditioning for the gig, however. Josh Bailey got his shot in the club’s first preseason game and it’s possible another center — Brock Nelson — will get a look as well.