2003-04: Grabner scored 32 goals with 5 assists with 58 PIM for Villacher SV’s U-20 squad. He made his pro debut with the Austrian league club, scoring 1 goal with 1 assist in 14 games. In the playoffs, he played 4 games with 1 goal. Grabner represented Austria in the WJC U-18 Division 1 A tournament scoring 3 goals with 1 assist in five games. He was selected by the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL in the first round (21st overall) of the 2004 CHL Import Draft.
2004-05: Grabner scored 13 goals with 11 assists and was -2 with 18 PIM in 58 games for Spokane in his first season in North America. Grabner played Austria in both the U-18 and U-20 WJC Division 1 tournaments. In eight games with the two teams, he scored 5 goals with 3 assists and had 31 PIM.
2005-06: Playing for a Spokane team that won just 25 games and finished last in the WHL’s US Division for a second straight season, Grabner scored scored 36 goals with 14 assists and was -2 with 28 PIM in 67 games. Grabner played alongside Adam Hobson (CHI) much of the year. Grabner proved to be a threat in special teams play – scoring five power play goals and three times short-handed. He was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round (14th overall) in the 2006 entry draft.
2006-07: Grabner’s third season in the WHL was one of high’s and lows. On the plus side, Grabner had stretches where he dominated as Spokane reached the playoffs for the first time. On the downside, he had stretches where he produced very little and at one juncture was called out by Coach Bill Peters and benched for a perceived lack of competitiveness. Grabner scored 39 goals (12 on the power play) with 16 assists and was +3 with 34 PIM in 55 games for the Chiefs. The playoffs were a frustrating experience as he had just 1 assist and was -1 in six games. Grabner joined the Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Manitoba following the WHL season. He scored his first goal in North American pro hockey and had one assist in two games with the Moose but was a non-factor in the AHL playoffs with no points or penalties in six games.
2007-08: Grabner’s debut season with the Manitoba Moose was a modest success. He scored 22 goals with 22 assists and was +5 with 8 PIM in 74 games. In the playoffs, he added 3 goals and was -1 with 2 PIM in six games.
2008-09: Grabner enjoyed his finest season in North America to-date in his second year with the Moose. Grabner’s 30 goals tied him with veteran Jason Krog for the team lead and he added 18 assists and was +20 as the Moose finished first in the AHL North and then advanced to the Calder Cup finals. Grabner was at his best in the playoffs, scoring 10 goals with 7 assists and was +11 with 2 PIM in 20 games.
2009-10: Grabner made his NHL debut with the Canucks and was with Vancouver for the first nine games before being returned to Manitoba. He was re-called by the Canucks at the end of March and finished the season with Vancouver. In 20 games total with the Canucks, he scored 5 goals and 6 assists and was +2 with 8 PIM including his first career hat trick in a 5-4 shootout victory over the Ducks in April which clinched a playoff spot for the Canucks. Grabner saw limited ice time in the Canucks’ playoff run but scored a goal in Vancouver’s Game 1 win over the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks and finished + 2 in nine games. Grabner was traded along with Steve Bernier and a 2010 first round pick (25th overall) to Florida for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich in June.
Grabner’s game is all skating and skill. He has the speed to find openings and create scoring opportunities with the ability to stickhandle at top speed. He is very difficult to stop on breakaways and other situations close to the net. He has yet to maintain the consistent performance that his high talent level suggests and this has been a source of frustration at times. As with many high level scorers who dominate at an early level, two-way play is an area that needs to be refined as he progresses in pro hockey. His dominant talent level make him dangerous to opponents both in the power play and penalty kill phases of the game. He’s the kind of player who can exhilarate and exasperate in the same shift. Grabner is still a raw talent who needs refining but has the potential to score 30 or 35 goals based on his skill level.
The Canucks, with a balanced attack that featured six players who scored 25 or more goals, did not have a full-time role for Grabner. He should get a crack at a top-line scoring role with the offensively-challenged Panthers. Should he be able to provide offense consistently, the Panthers would be willing to overlook some of his shortcomings in the defensive zone.