Michael Grabner was underwhelming last season in Toronto. Although a decent penalty kill player, his low points total failed to endear him. Acquired as a free agent by the New York Rangers, Grabner has found his form again. Currently the Rangers third top scorer with 16 points, the Austrian is turning heads in the Big Apple. While Kevin Hayes and J.T Miller may be ahead in the points race, Grabner knows where the net is. This player might be the smartest signing the Rangers have made this year.
So far, Grabner tops the goals scoring charts with 12 goals. While playing for the Islanders, he was always a consistent workhorse. Teaming him on the same line as Miller and Hayes has been a smart move. Together this line is the Rangers most productive and it is no surprise that all three men top the team’s stats chart. Grabner is always creating chances and he has received glowing praise from New York media. Not bad for a man who was considered to be a roster filler by most Rangers fans.
His Corsi CF% of 44.79% on 5v5 might be Rangers 5th lowest and he is second overall in shot percentage with 16.55%. Originally starting on the fourth line alongside Jesper Fast and Brandon Pirri, there was little expectation during the opening weeks. After the Rangers 5-3 loss to Vancouver, they reshuffled the offensive lines. The Rangers have an abundance of offensive talent in Derek Stepan, Jimmy Vesey and Rick Nash. Grabner might not be a flashy player or even hard hitter but works tirelessly and his speed and great stick work are making the difference.
The smartest element to his move to the Rangers was that he is once again coached by Alain Vigneault. The two met early in his career when Grabner was drafted by Vancouver in 2006. After losing Carl Hagelin, his boss has found the perfect replacement. Vigneault said “He’s a player that can intimidate the opposition with his speed. When he’s jumping and feeling good about himself, he’s a very effective player. That’s what we’ve seen so far, and that’s what I expect to see moving forward.”
Arriving on a two-year deal for only $3.3 million, this goes down as the bargain of the season. Grabner fits well into the Rangers strength and skill approach. There was little fanfare with his arrival, now he is firmly a fan favourite in Manhatten. For years he was impressive playing for awful Islander teams. Now Grabner has a real chance for success and playing under Vigneault has brought out the best in him. Will he sustain this form as time goes on? Maybe this form is only temporary and the Rangers will use him as trade bait? The only way to find out is to let him play.