What are realistic expectations for Michael Grabner?

August 1, 2016, by


The Rangers began their retooling of the bottom-six by signing winger Michael Grabner to a two-year deal this summer. He was the first of numerous signings with the purpose of addressing the bottom-six and the penalty kill, and easily the most high profile signing they made this summer.

The 28-year-old speed demon is a former 30-goal scorer, putting up 34 goals in his first full NHL season. He then put up 20 goals his following season, then a 30-goal pace in the lockout shortened 2013 season. All these came with the Isles. Since then, Grabner has topped out at 12 goals, and has seen his goal totals in decline since.

Grabner’s greatest asset is his speed, but he’s also solid defensively. He suppresses shot attempts against while also driving possession for.

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The above graph shows Grabner’s 2015 and 2016 seasons, side by side. His most recent season why significantly worse than his 2015 season, and something that appears to be a blip on the radar for Grabner. I think it’s safe to say that he was affected by the abysmal Toronto team he was a part of. It’s fair to at least expect him to get to third line possession numbers.

With Grabner, the Rangers are getting someone who will disrupt the opposition, but won’t necessarily put up scoring numbers. Grabner was playing a top-six role with the Isles when he put up 54 goals in two seasons. He won’t get that time with the Rangers. In all likelihood, he will bounce between the third and fourth lines, playing a defensive role or providing some defensive cover for Kevin Hayes/Pavel Buchnevich.

Realistically, Grabner isn’t going to put up another 20-goal season. Assuming 10-12 minutes of even strength time per game, Grabner is likely to put up about half that total. Anything more is just a bonus. But with Grabner, the Rangers get one key weapon on their penalty kill back since the Carl Hagelin trade, and that is a dynamic presence that disrupts on the penalty kill.

I bring up Hagelin here for one reason: Grabner is not Hagelin. In terms of reasonable expectations, expecting Grabner to be Hagelin isn’t fair, and will likely cut his legs out from under him from the start. Grabner will be just fine as a bottom-six forward for the Rangers and will bring stability to the penalty kill. He’s a solid depth add for a team that needed depth.

"What are realistic expectations for Michael Grabner?", 5 out of 5 based on 7 ratings.
Categories : Players


  1. Craig says:

    Why can’t Grabner be compared to Haglan? Did Haglan ever score 30 goals or even 20? Is Haglan any faster a skater then Grabner? Is Haglan that much better defensively or on the penalty kill? I think it is fair to say, it is a pretty even a contest between the two players.

    • Dave says:

      Usage matters. Hagelin will be on Pitt’s 2nd line. Grabner will probably spend the chunk of his time on the fourth line.

    • Bloomer says:

      Hags was a stud in the playoffs last year without a doubt. But with no P.P. markers last year, he still stinks there. Hagelin is more suited for the 3rd.line and Grabner is a good comparison.

  2. SalMerc says:

    Stated very well Dave. Graber and Fast will be the equivalent of shutdown corners in football. Our PK should be significantly better. His numbers may be under 25 points, but his value will be high if he plays the defensive role we want. I also see value in his 4v4 play with his ability to stretch the field.

    He was a good addition.

  3. Walt says:


    Great idea to not make the expectations too high for Grabner, because if he exceeds what we all expect, it’s icing on the cake. I can see him hit the 13-15 goal mark. I don’t expect it, but I can see it, based on the talent he has around him, Vs the Leafs team before. His assists will be in the 18-22 range, and if he hits these numbers, we have a winner on our hands……………..

    The fact that he is sound on defense, can skate well, he could be the answer as to who skates with Hayes, and Buch! Buch is a pass first guy, Hayes the same, so if Grabner is the other wing, his numbers could be higher than I posted. That is wishful thinking, but it’s do able !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 'The Original Rob' says:


      I agree with everything you wrote, but Hayes being a “pass first guy.”
      To me, Hayes is more of a shooter then a set up kinda player.

      Let’s just hope he has a much better season this year altogether, and if he’s either of those things (passer or shooter) this year, I’ll take it.

      • Walt says:

        can’t argue with you on that…………

        maybe he could become a shooter, as well as a passer, bottom line, Grabner could work with the kids, and be responisible on the defensive side as well !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Robert Skettini says:

    Unless The Rangers sign Jimmy Vesey, Grabner will be a 3rd line player.

    Nash Zibanejad Zuccarello
    Kreider Stepan Miller
    Grabner Hayes Buchnevich
    Lindberg Jooris Fast

    Is how I have it. Glass will be the 4th line LW while Lindberg is out

    Grabner CAN play up the lineup of someone in the top 6 gets injured, though. And if Hayes and Buchnevich bring their A game/if that line gels, it has potential to bring consistent secondary scoring

    • Walt says:

      who would give your post a thumbs down, it makes sense????????

      By the looks of your line up, and I suspect that the moves haven’t stopped yet, we would have plenty of flexibality, which is great!!!!!!!!!!

      Now if only they can correct the defense some !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • ranger17 says:

      Where does that leave Gerbe

    • Section 121 says:

      How about an article on realistic expectations for Pavel B? Sure he has talent but was not exactly lighting up the KHL.

      I am not ready to expect Buch to play a full time role yet. I would like to see a full season of AHL experience 75+ games under is belt before anointing him.

  5. Johnny Red says:

    I like your article, but can we Please stop acting like Hags was 20-30 goal guy. He was good for us with 2 17 goal seasons and his speed. How good was he with the Ducks? 4 goals in 43 games. He was lucky to be on a line with Kessler and Binino. Not taking a thing away from him but Grabner has more offence to his game. Lets wait and see what he does.
    The one thing these days that drives me crazy is everyone wants things done quickly. Maybe it’s this computer age where everything can be had almost immediately. I’m watching this sport for 55 years and my friends it’s the bottom line players that makes a team win a cup. Our weakness was the pk and defense , we’ve helped one now lets see if we can do the other.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      I’m pretty sure Crosby, Letang, Kessel, Malkin…. also had something to do with it.

    • Egelstein says:

      Just a side note, Hags was a terrible fit with the Ducks. They don’t play a speed game. They tried to bring in a couple speedier guys to help change that, but it just didn’t work out because their roster is so much more a physical and grinding roster top to bottom. GM Bob Murray was wise enough to see this halfway through, made some key roster changes (including shipping out a speed player in Hags, shipping in a more power player in McGinn, as an example), they went back to their true style, and they ended up winning a lot more games the second half as a result. Was basically a failed experiment. I’m not saying Pens weren’t the perfect fit for Hags – I think they were…but I also think it’s prudent to note, his game just did not fit at all with the Ducks either.

  6. HARLEMBLUES says:

    Stahlberg with more git tee up.

  7. Chris A says:

    So Antoine Vermette was bought out by Arizona today. I wonder if he would be willing to come to NY to play on the 4th line?

    • paulronty says:

      Please no, he sucks, why is it Ranger fans what to get every loser cut loose by other teams?

      • Chris A says:

        Because you can’t have 12 all stars at every forward spot? You need depth players and Vermette is a healthy, bottom 6 center that can win faceoffs, something the Rangers currently do not have in their organization.

  8. paulronty says:

    Grabner was one guy I definitely wanted the Rangers to sign because he’s an elite PKer and that was a major weakness last year. You aren’t going far in the NHL without a good PK & Gorton has done a great job of shoring up a major weakness. Grabner is touted as a 4th line guy, but if he plays third line I can see him scoring 10-15 goals.

    • Walt says:

      I believe he could make the line of Hayes, and Buch work well. Think back to Hayes first season, Hags made that line click for them, and Grabner could do the same !!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Hayes’ weakness is his defensive play, Grabner relieves him of that pressure so that he can be much more comfortable in his skin !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Bloomer says:

    I had Grabner penciled in on the 3rd line as well. However, I am not sold on Buchenvich. I think he will need some seasoning on the AHL. The Rangers still need more forward depth, I like them to put in a bid for Hudler and sign him to a one year deal.

  10. Stranger Nation says:

    Agree Hags was a critical input to Hazy Daze year 1 play. His best contribution was the possession game which takes a huge burden off your linemates when you win 50/50 board battles and force Defense to slide. Hags does have horrendous hands, with better mitts could score 30 with the Grade A chances he gets.
    Grabher has much better mitts but not as elusive on the wall. Grabher may score 20 while playing solid D. Love too see Da Buke light it up but will wait to see how he manages to transition to the NHL game. Haze is a huge wild card.
    3rd line is the key to NYR/AV success to create mismatches by having 3 lines that can score. Last season, it didnt happen like the prior 2. Worked for Pissburg though.

  11. Jeff Liberty says:

    My favorite moment last season was Grabner’s breakaway goal vs Philly. I was waiting all season for him to finally do that and his facial expression was priceless. Kind of like “Yeah, no big deal, I do that all the time.” lol.