Michael René Grabner
Born October 5, 1987 (age 23) in Villach, Austria
Right-winger for the New York Islanders
Today we have chosen to honor Grabner because he recently scored a five-year deal with the New York Islanders. Grabner is one of only three Austrians in the entire NHL and the only one to have started his career in Austria. He first started playing at the tender age of five and played for the hometown team for a while. He also played for Austria in the 2004 U18 World Championships, even though he was underage at the time. He then headed to North America for major junior, figuring that would help him reach the NHL.
It did! After playing for the Spokane Chiefs, he was selected 14th overall in the 2006 draft by the Vancouver Canucks, which was surprising to him as he thought he’d be selected later. He bounced between the Canucks and the Manitoba Moose (which, by the way, will move to St. John’s, Newfoundland) for a while before being traded to the Florida Panthers, placed on waivers and picked up by the Islanders.
This was a pretty good move by them. Grabner was ranked as the fastest skater in the 2011 SuperSkills contest, led all rookies in scoring for February 2011 and was of course nominated for a Calder (that we both agree he deserved). For 2010-11, he played 76 games, had 34 goals and 18 assists (52 points) and spent just ten minutes in the sin bin. (Please, I’ve spent longer than that waiting for trains! Well done, Grabs!) Such a successful rookie year led the Islanders to ink him on that five-year contract.
But Grabner isn’t just talented on the ice; he’s also a really nice guy in real life. I’ve [Emma] never met him personally, but I do follow him on Twitter. One time, very late at night, he even replied to me! He uses his Twitter very liberally to update us on his day-to-day, talk to teammates and show off pictures of his darling little son Aidan. The night Aidan was born, which I think was in March, was a good night for two teams: the Islanders and the Thrashers. Both were playing games and both won! Meanwhile, Grabner was up all night waiting for Aidan’s entry to the world and took to Twitter to entertain himself. Here is Aidan in a Gremlin-ear knit hat a fan made for him, since his daddy’s nickname is Gremlin.
You just know that Daddy will make sure Aidan at least tries out getting on the ice once he’s old enough to do so!
Even at this young stage of Grabner’s pro career, he’s racked up some big nods: Rookie of the Month (February 2011), Fastest Skater at NHL All-Star Game 2011 SuperSkills Competition and finalist for Calder Memorial Trophy (2011).
I know we all look forward to seeing Grabner continue to do well in the future, especially Vicky, our big Islanders fan.