Ready for the Future
| By Luke Dotto
Michael Grabner, the Canucks first round draft pick in 2006, made his Canucks debut in two pre-season games last season.
He finished the 2006-07 year with his WHL team in Spokane, where he earned 55 points in 55 games. After the playoffs with his junior team, he joined the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, registering two points in two games.
After a successful year, Grabner assesses and plans for the year ahead.
How would you describe yourself?
I would say I am normally a shy guy around new people but when I warm up, I think you can have a lot of fun with me. I like to travel and see new cultures. I like to hang out with friends. I play a lot of golf and tennis and I like to eat. That's basically it.
How were you introduced to hockey in Austria?
My mom brought me to the rink for my first practice on my 5th birthday - thats how I started. At the beginning I didn't like it very much. I wasn't allowed to play with the older guys and I had to learn how to skate. When I was getting better I didn't want to stop and I spent tons of time at the rink.
Coming from Europe, were you exposed to the NHL very much? And if so, was there a NHL player you modeled your game after when you were younger?
When I was younger there wasn't too much NHL on TV. All I knew was that the NHL was the best hockey league and every player wants to get there so my goal was to make it there one day. I heard about Gretzky a lot and all the superstars but that's about it. So when I was younger my favorite player was Gretzky.
Do you feel people like yourself, Thomas Vanek, Juraj Simek, Jannik Hansen and Anze Kopitar are paving the way in the NHL to bring light to some of the less-traditional hockey markets (like Austria, Denmark, or Switzerland) in the world?
Yeah, I think so. I noticed it a lot in Austria. Hockey has grown so much and more people come to the games. I think Vanek had a big impact for hockey in Austria. A lot of young guys want to go to America, Sweden, Finland and so on and see how they measure up to the elite. A lot of teams which weren't that known for hockey getting better and better.
During the season there was a relatively controversial incident with your coach, Bill Peters, was it misinterpreted by the media?
Ok I know there was a lot of talk about this. Here are my thoughts about it and I am not trying to make up excuses or anything - I know I had a bad game. It started off with the first period where we took a lot of penalties and I wasn't on the penalty kill at that time so I had maybe 2-3 shifts the first period. Then the second period I didn't play the first 8-9 minutes because of penalties and then I went out there and had a bad shift and after that I was benched.
Now that your WHL career is finished, what has been the biggest change in your game, between when your first game to North America, and now?
I think I play more physical and try to play better defence. You have to make faster decisions because of the smaller ice and everything. It took me a bit to get use to it but now its working fine.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make going from the WHL to the AHL?
Going from he WHL to the AHL I think you had to be more careful in your decisions and be better in your own end. You also had to be stronger on the puck and fight through more traffic.
During your stay with the Moose, were you happy with your professional debut? Would you have changed anything?
No, it was awesome to play up there. I always got lucky with my teams so far. Spokane was a great organization and city to play for and so is Vancouver and Winnipeg. They have great fans and they really take care of you. I was really happy with my start I scored a garbage goal in my second game but it was still nice to get one. I wouldn't change a thing besides maybe that my parents would have been there.
Did you make any friendships with other prospects while you were in Winnipeg? Or in the WHL?
Yeah, I talked to a few but I didn't have to much time to get to know them really good. I think I will when I play a longer period of time with them. I am good friends with Juraj Simek he is a really good guy and I also got friends with [Daniel] Rahimi - he was my roommate.
They are all really good guys in Winnipeg and Vancouver. They helped out a lot on the start and made me feel like I was there the whole time.
Have you and Markus Naslund kept in contact since last training camp?
I don't have contact with Markus. He is a busy guy (laughs) but he helped me a lot and showed me around.
Are you happy with the progress you've made physically?
When I came home I only weighed about 170 (now he's 185) and I gained a lot right at the beginning but now it's hard to get more on there. I am getting stronger and everything but I am pretty excited about my weight because I have never weighed that much.
What are you hoping for as the season approaches and training camp is starting soon?
My goal is to fight for a spot and if I don't make it, I am going to try to have a good year in Winnipeg and get me a better chance for the following year.
How do you feel about the inevitable "Thats Grabtastic!" call that Tom Larscheid will no doubt deliver when you score your first NHL goal? And what would be the perfect first-NHL goal?
I don't know but I hope he is going to say it a lot when I play for the Canucks (laughs). My perfect goal would be a breakaway goal or maybe a powerplay snipe (laughs) but its probably going to be a garbage one like in Winnipeg. A goal is a goal though, right?
And is there much competition among the prospects?
Yeah, I think so. Everyone is joking with each other when they do something funny in a game and stuff but its just fun time in the dressing room.
Are you ready to face Chris Pronger again, remembering what happened last pre-season?
(Laughs) Yea maybe if I grow another 4 inches and weigh 230 then maybe. I hope I can score when he is on the ice that hurts more than any punches or words.
3 - Seasons in the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs
129 - Career points with the Chiefs
6 - Post-season appearances in a Moose uniform
Grabbing For The Top
Grabner On Top
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