The Vancouver Canucks turned a few heads when they used the 14th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft to select Michael Grabner. The Austrian-born winger had one of the best second halves of any prospect in the world, scoring at a torrid pace, notching 22 goals in his final 23 games. He had a very poor start to his season, which ultimately hurt his final goal and point totals, which weren’t helped by the fact that his Spokane Chiefs were one of the weaker teams in the WHL.
Grabner is a boom-or-bust type of pick. He’s got outstanding speed and great goal-scoring ability. He is going to need to get bigger and stronger in order to be able to physically compete against NHL-sized players, and shore up his defensive skills just to avoid being a complete liability. However, there is no doubt that the Canucks made this selection with the expectation that he will one day be filling the net for Vancouver.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Grabner shortly after his name was called on draft day.
HF: Were you surprised at all to be selected by Vancouver at No. 14?
MG: Uh, a little bit yeah. I was always rated end of first, beginning of second. I was a little surprised, but I’m very happy to be picked that high.
HF: Did you have any indication whatsoever that Vancouver was interested in you?
MG: Uh, not really. They could hide it pretty good I guess! They were talking to me like every other team and asked the same questions so I didn’t have any idea about it at all.
HF: Did you speak with the Canucks’ scouts during the regular season at all?
MG: No, actually not. I only talked to two, two guys during the season because I wasn’t playing so good when I started. They were coming and talking to me, but I didn’t talk to Vancouver.
HF: How did you feel your season went in Spokane?
MG: It went pretty good I guess. Start was not too good. I had a good exhibition season, a good training camp, but then the first 15, 20 games I was way off. Then when I started picking it up, I started scoring. So then it was really good.
HF: Was it difficult for you to play on a team that didn’t provide you with a lot of offensive support this season?
MG: I wouldn’t say a lot of support. We had a really young team; we’re going to be good next year I think. And yeah, it was great to get some experience and confidence and I hope to help the team next year. I hope we make the playoffs.
HF: For Canucks fans who have never seen you play before, how would you describe your style of play?
MG: Fast skater, good skater. Ability to score, score a lot of goals. Very skilled I would say.
HF: What do you need to improve?
MG: My strength, probably gain a little weight. So I can battle, win more one-on-one battles.
HF: What current NHL player do you think you compare to?
MG: Compare? I would like to play like (Alexander) Ovechkin. He’s such a fast player and scores a lot of goals. He’s good defense and offense, like my favorite player.
HF: Who is your favorite Vancouver Canuck?
MG: Favorite Canuck!? (laughing) It was Bertuzzi actually, but he got traded. So yeah, I think he was a hard worker and I liked him. It’s too bad!
HF: Are there any players on the Canucks right now that you’d like to play on a line with when you make the NHL?
MG: It doesn’t matter what line. NHL player is NHL player for me. And there are all really good players or else they wouldn’t be here.
HF: Do you expect to play with Spokane again next season?
MG: I expect I guess so. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be back there.
HF: What made you make the tough decision to come to play hockey in North America instead of staying at home?
MG: At home I don’t think I would be here right now. I knew I wanted to make the NHL one day. It was always my dream when I was younger and that’s why I came here to try to get better and improve my game and it worked out pretty good.
HF: Did you have any difficulties making the transition to North America? Did you have any cultural problems?
MG: No, not really. I had really good billets, my family is really good. I had, it took a little time to get used to the physical play but after I got used to it, it was great, it was like home and it’s really good and I enjoy it.
HF: What do you think you can provide the Canucks with when you play for them?
MG: I hope I can score some goals for them. I’m an offensive guy, very skilled, power play kind of guy.
HF: Have you ever met any of the other Vancouver prospects?
MG: No, not yet. I think I’m going to meet them very soon though. I didn’t expect to get drafted by Vancouver so I didn’t know.
HF: Are you excited at the potential to stay in the North West?
MG: Yeah, I like it here, it’s great. All the people are so nice and stuff. It’s a great city, Vancouver. I played here a lot, with the Spokane Chiefs, enjoy it here.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.