The premise behind our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 -- other than a cute number and a periodic exercise borrowed from Copper & Blue -- is that in a budgetary cap world a team's lifeblood is its young cost-controlled talent, and by age 25 you should have a pretty clear idea of what that talent provides.
I think most know what Michael Grabner provides: Superior two-way play and penalty killing (when given the opportunity) and a constant threat to score on the counter-attack or generally make life miserable for defensemen who tarry before they carry.
Grabner turns 25 in October so he'll be moving off this list, where he ranked fourth in a dead heat with 24-year-old Kyle Okposo and 22-year-old Josh Bailey (ranked 5th). We polled most of the front-page authors at LHH to come up with this list before the draft -- so Griffin Reinhart isn't on it, but surely will be in the fall -- to get a cross section of views that weigh current NHL ability and future potential.
For players like Grabner as they move toward the ripe age of 25, it's a whole lot less about potential and a whole lot more about current contributions.
How We Voted
I was one of the two high voters here, one of only two to rank Grabner third. So of course my bias is to say Grabner suffered in our poll thanks to age and an off year of "only" 20 goals. While Grabner's unconverted breakaways stand out as memorable missed chances, I still maintain the fact he gets so many is one of many signs that he excels at hockey and will continue to do so.
Other signs: He does it against tough competition, while still generating chances and drawing penalties despite being put out in the least advantageous situations for either of those feats -- namely, for a paucity of offensive zone starts.
In other words: Do not worry about Michael Grabner.
The 20 goals were a disappointment if you thought the prior season's 34 were a prelude to 40. But if you see that more as a peak on the way to 25 -- we've previously discussed how his shot total dropped from 228 in 2010-11 to 174 in 2011-12 -- from a guy who is a perfect complement to Frans Nielsen in sabotaging the best efforts of opponents' best lines', then 20 is a blip on the record of a player who provides much more.
As he approaches 25, I think we mostly know what the Islanders have in Michael Grabner, and what that is remains a key gift from the waiver gods via their mortal manifestation in the person of Dale Tallon.
Related Links You'll See with Each 25U25 Post
May 2012 25U25 Panelists: CanadianIslesLifer making a return appearance, as well as most of the authors at LHH.
Note: For those LHH readers who sent their own selections in, JPinVA has them summarized in this FanPost. That one will be fun to measure against our panelists' results.
You can see which other prospects just missed our top 25 in this preview post.
To reflect the variety of ways you can place value on prospects with uncertain futures, we brought a range of philosophies to this poll, which ranks all Islanders (prospect or pro) under age 25: Some voters valued present talent/maturity more, some valued future potential more. All are averaged with the intent of capturing a moment in time in the evolution of the Islanders prospect pipeline.