Let's take a closer look at the hottest player in the league over the past calendar month. He had 15 goals and 21 points in that span, more points than the next best Olli Jokinen (17 points) and a whopping six more goals than the next best - a three way tie between Drew Stafford, Ryan Kesler and Curtis Glencross.
We are talking about a guy who was dealt from Vancouver last June to Florida and then waived before even playing a single game for the Panthers. With Florida's lack of offensive depth, it's mind-boggling that they couldn't find any room for the speedy Michael Grabner. The Islanders promptly claimed the 23-year-old Austrian winger.
Last night, during an intermission in the Leafs/Sabres game, the TSN panel discussed Grabner's recent surge. Bob McKenzie stated that Grabner told him that winning the fastest skater at the All-Star Skills Competition was a big confidence boost for him. The truth is that in the eight games immediately prior to the All-Star break, Grabner recorded nine points. In the eight games following the break, he had 14 points, including five multi-point efforts.
He has 23 points in his last 16 matches and is scorching hot with 10 goals and 13 points over the last six contests. All that despite averaging just 0:33 seconds per game on the power play on the season. Let me put that in perspective; Doug Weight has played in only 18 games this year, yet has triple the amount of time with the extra man that Grabner has after 53 games. In his most recent 10 games, Grabner has spent 73 per cent of his even strength shifts with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo.
Grabner recorded 55 points in as many games in his final year of junior hockey. He went on to record 44 and 48 points in his first two AHL seasons. Last season, he split the year between the AHL (26 points in 38 games) and the NHL, recording 11 points in 20 games with the Canucks.
He certainly picked a great time to bust out, Grabner is about to earn a nice raise on his $765,000 annual stipend ($843,333 cap hit) when he hits restricted free agency this summer.
The New York Islanders are a very interesting team right now. Over the last 10 games of January, they were 2-7-1. They won their first game of February and then came the 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Penguins. That's the game where they took umbrage at a hit laid on Blake Comeau by Max Talbot and saw the Brent Johnson KO of Rick DiPietro. That set up last Friday's now infamous 346 penalty minute grudge match.
Talk about sparking the Islanders though, they went 5-1 in the subsequent six games. It doesn't hurt that the team has been all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and are all loosey-goosey, with nothing to lose. This happens every year with teams in this situation.
The hit on Comeau seemed to provide some motivation for a team that has been all but mathematically eliminated from the post-season. In the six games since the Comeau hit/DiPietro fight, Matt Moulson has six points, Frans Nielsen, eight points and the franchise John Tavares, nine points.
Travis Hamonic logs the second most ice time on the Isles, including 1:48 per game with the man advantage. Only last year, he was playing in his final year of junior where he recorded 44 points in 41 games. He had seven points in 19 AHL games this year before getting the call to Long Island. The 20-year-old has six points in his last six matches.
In his first NHL action this season, Ty Wishart recorded four points in his first four games as an Islander. He was making the most of limited opportunities after being traded (for Roloson) from Tampa Bay on New Year's Day. Wishart is only averaging 15:33 in ice time, including a paltry 0:49 on the power play. If his ice time doesn't increase, don't expect the point-per-game pace to continue. He has previously shown an offensive side, recording 23 points in 43 AHL games before getting called up this year and in his final year of junior hockey, he scored 67 points in 72 games.
The points have dried up for Andrew MacDonald. He has a single point over his last eight games. He logs nearly 23 minutes per game, the most of any Islander and on the season has averaged 3:05 with the man advantage unit. There is competition now for power play ice time and maybe MacDonald is feeling the pressure.
Milan Jurcina has nine points in his last 12 games, but only recorded four points in his first 20 games this season. Interestingly, he has received top unit power play minutes over his last four games and registered three power play points in that span. I still see this as a blip and can't get excited about a player who is one point away from his NHL career high of 14 points, had a high of 23 points in the AHL and 28 in junior.
Jack Hillen has four points in his last five contests. He was averaging well over 21 minutes of ice time in those games. He has shown an offensive side before, when he recorded 37 points over 41 games in his last year of college hockey. Unfortunately, he has to fight for ice time and is far from a lock to play on the top power play unit.
Double D Looking Good
No I'm not talking about Drew Doughty. Flying under the radar for the Habs is a 24-year-old named David Desharnais. He has 12 points in 19 games on the season and seven points in his last four matches. He's played almost exclusively with Benoit Pouliot and Ryan White. Desharnais is only listed at 5'7", weighing in around 180 pounds. Last Tuesday, he played a season high 18:55.
So who is David Desharnais? He recorded 226 points in 124 games over his last two seasons of major junior and went on to lead the ECHL in scoring while copping the Most Valuable Player in 2007-08. He then recorded 58 points in 77 AHL games and last season he scored 78 points in 60 AHL games.
Desharnais will not supplant Tomas Plekanec nor Scott Gomez on the depth chart at centre, so his upside this year is limited, but he is someone to keep an eye on if his situation changes.
Last Tuesday's two goal effort against his former club at the old haunt was huge for Phil Kessel. He recorded another nice goal in last night's game and could very well be the beginning of a nice run for Kessel.