Austria will be making their first Olympic appearance in Men’s Ice Hockey since the 2002 games and amongst the players that will be representing them will be New York Islanders winger, Michael Grabner. The former first round pick (14th overall) of the Vancouver Canucks was on of only three current NHLers selected to Austria’s team along with Isles teammate Thomas Vanek and Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl.
This is Grabner’s fourth NHL season, all with the Islanders. In his time on the Island Grabs has amassed 81 goals and 49 assists, 130 points, in 260 NHL games, including a 34 goal performance in his rookie campaign, but has only 6 goals this year. Grabner’s biggest weapon on the ice is his incredible speed, which makes him a very good penalty killer and a threat even when his team is down a man. He has good hockey sense, but, despite his 81 career goals, he has trouble finishing on the outrageous number of breakaways that his speed produces.
Grabner is not a first line caliber NHL player, but he certainly is a serviceable NHLer. However, for a National team that will feature only three NHL pros he will likely be asked to log first line minutes, and play first line situations, which is not something he is asked to do for the Islanders. He should absolutely benefit from the increased Ice surface that is used in the International game, but playing against other nation’s top defensemen, and being targeted by opponents as a top player for his team, he may find it difficult to find the space that he needs to be successful. As I noted he is a terrific penalty killer, and that will likely be on display in Sochi, but he very rarely, if ever, plays power play minutes for the Isles.
Grabner and the Austrians will be cast a serious medal underdogs in this Olympic games, bu if he, or the team, can thrive in the tournament it could go a long way towards helping Grabner be more productive, and consistent, when he gets back to Long Island.
(all stats via hockeydb.com)