Drafted in the 5th round by the Canadiens in 2004, dealt for a 2nd round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft and 5th round selection Greg Pateryn in 2008. Have the Leafs made the biggest impact trade of the season?
It was a bit of a slow start in the point production for the 24 year old rookie, but after not putting up a point in his first 7 games, Grabovski has found himself with 11 points on the year and 9 in his last five outings. Simply put, the kid is absolutely on fire.
A frustrating game for the Canadiens last weekend found Grabovski on the better side of a 6-3 scoreboard. It was sweet revenge for the young Belarusian who left the Canadiens franchise on undisclosed bad terms during the offseason as he posted a goal and an assist and drew several penalties throughout the affair. The Canadiens were certainly out for him, but his speed and grit proved to be more than the Habs expected. Even Carey Price took a cheap shot at the back of Grabovski’s head only to receive a butt-end in the groin in return.
The 5’11” is currently sitting in third among rookie scoring while line mate Nikolai Kulemin sits just 3 points behind him. Only Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks and Derick Brassard are ahead of Grabovski in the race, but with Grabs recent explosive play its sure to change sooner than later.
Speaking of rookie scoring, it has been quite a while since the Leafs have had 5 rookie regulars in the lineup – Mikhail Grabovski (11 points), Nikolai Kulemin (8 points), John Mitchell (5 points), Luke Schenn (2 points) and Jonas Frogren (1 point), although Frogren is not listed as a rookie on behalf of the NHL due to his age. Combined, the four listed rookies are on pace to produce 133 points for the Maple Leafs this season, 56 of which would be goals.
Toronto may not be the youngest team in the NHL, but they have definitely iced a great young core this year, most of which make up the pieces of their top two lines. There are many other teams with at least 3 rookies playing as regulars in the NHL, but none have as much production as the Leafs group this season.
Luke Schenn currently leads all rookies with hits (41) and blocked shots (25) and has logged over 20 minutes of ice time in 10 of his 16 appearances.
Nikolai Kulemin was the first player to score a goal in his first game against the defending Stanley Cup Champions since Eric Lindros had against the Penguins on October 6th, 1992.
Mikhail Grabovski is currently tied in the rookie lead in scoring with 7 and is on pace for a 35 goal campaign. Anything above 20 would be a blessing for the Maple Leafs this season.
The rookies have absolutely proved their worth on the new club. The speed and grit that comes with their package molds to a new style of Maple Leaf hockey – a fast and exciting game the team has lacked since the lockout.
If it’s players like this Fletcher discusses in his “plan” to bring in at least 3 young guns each season, then we can only look forward to younger, faster and more skilled team for years to come.
*Update: Add another goal to Grabovski’s totals this season.
Micheal A. Aldred