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Michael Grabner Returns to Austria to Play with Hometown Villacher SV

Still locked out, Michael Grabner returns to the team where he played as a teenager before heading to North America.

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

We can finally add Michael Grabner's name to the list of locked out New York Islanders players who have found playing time overseas. This one is quite a step down in level of competition for the speedy winger, but it comes with a bonus: He'll be returning to his hometown club, Villacher SV (or VSV for short).

VSV is currently in first place in the 12-team Austrian league. The club's official announcement is here (h/t LHH reader BenHasna). Grabner mentions the move (and hatred of packing) on his Twitter account here. And LHHer Paumanok translates the main points of the announcement here, and in comments below, including this from Grabner:

"A dream has come true: I can play for my VSV in the regular season and help the club that trained me. I’m looking forward to Villach, all the fans, and a hopefully packed arena. The atmosphere will definitely be great! My son Aiden will first get his VSV gear and then we can start. I’m really excited!"

Apparently the sponsorships making it possible came from a combination of local businesses, though that commitment is just for one month at present.

At ages 15-16 Grabner played for VSV's junior squad, then their regular squad, over two seasons in 2002-04 before making the overseas leap to join the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL.

The leaderboard in Austria is filled with names most Isles fans will never have heard of, though there is one down at 26th as of today: Justin DiBenedetto, who headed to Salzburg -- where he probably gets free Red Bull -- before the lockout began. (However, DiBenedetto's NHL rights are retained by the Islanders, who qualified him this summer).

[Edit: There's also one higher up at six! As Kaonashi points out, Luciano Aquino was selected 210th overall by the Isles in 2005. Holy Lost Milbury Files, Batman.]

Speaking of vaguely familiar names: VSV's goaltender is Jean-Philippe Lamoreaux, who made the AHL and ECHL rounds after four years at North Dakota.

Grabner joins a growing list of locked-out Islanders in Europe. A list of all NHL players rumored or confirmed to be headed overseas is available on Elite Prospects' lockout page.