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Top 25 Islanders Under 25: Michael Grabner, Der Schnellste Mann

Michael Grabner was here (but he's already back at the bench).
Michael Grabner was here (but he's already back at the bench).

Michael Grabner has 42 goals (seven shorthanded), 23 assists and 65 points in 102 games as a New York Islander. He's an absolutely lethal penalty killer, and his speed gives opposing defenders panic attacks on a nightly basis.

There is a long list of good NHL players who unwittingly gift-wrapped breakaways for him thanks to their failure to anticipate Austrian Warp Speed.

If only he converted those breakaways at a Pavel Bure rate instead of a average or sub-average NHLer's rate, the Gremlin would be an outright superstar. Instead, he's just a really fine NHL player, one of the best waiver claims in recent NHL history, and holding the second spot on our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 list.

How is Grabner doing this year? Pretty well, although his line struggled early -- earning Kyle Okposo a week in the press box -- and the role he excelled in toward the end of last season, as a lethal 1-2 PK tandem with Frans Nielsen, was blocked a bit by Jay Pandolfo of all people. Pandolfo's injury has allowed Grabner a little more PK time in recent games, which is good for both the goose and the Grabner.

Grabner's aggregate usage totals last year are tempered by his easing into the lineup in the first half, and his downright explosion in the second half. Nonetheless, here are how his averages are lining up this season vs. last season:

Gremlin TOI PK PP Shots S/GP Sh%
2010-11 15:04 1:31 0:54 228 3.0 14.9%
2011-12 16:58 1:55 1:33 62 2.38 12.9%

Those are per game rates/TOI, except the shot total (through 76 games last year, 26 so far this year). He's getting slightly fewer shots per game this year despite increased per-game ice time in all phases.

His shooting percentage is still pretty high, which bears watching because it: 1) could still fall back to a true Grabner "norm," whatever that norm may be, or 2) could remain that high as long as he keeps getting so many breakaway chances. (Even though Grabner has a rep for not converting his breakaways, unless he's missing nine out of 10 -- I doubt that he is -- then it can be cause for a higher than normal NHL shooting percentage.)

How We Voted in September

We tallied votes from a panel of six for this exercise back in September, before training camp opened. Opinions will change -- have already changed -- over the course of this season, so we'll do an update in 2012. Here's how we ranked Grabner (who turned 24 in October) in September 2011:

Top 25 Under 25 mikb M11 CIL Dom KQ Mark
Michael Grabner
3 2

Note that it was not unanimous. It never is. Well, except for the final one on our countdown.

For this first edition, we polled LHH authors Keith, WebBard (Mark D), mikb, myself, and two particularly prospect-focused LHH regulars, CanadianIslesLifer and MatthewM11. We wanted enough to get a decent number of voters but not so much that we make the first run unwieldy. It is absolutely unscientific but with varied enough votes to get us thinking about who are the best hockey players now, balanced with who has the best potential/value long-term.

Related Reading

Previous Posts in This Top 25 Islanders Under 25 Series

The Top 25 under 25 is an idea conceived by Oilers blog Copper & Blue and copied elsewhere, incorporated here by popular demand. We cut it off at players who were under 25 going into this season, so Andrew MacDonald, having just turned 25 this month, barely misses eligibility.