As of today there are five NHL teams that can boast that they have two 30 goal scorers on their roster this season. These teams are the first place in the NHL Vancouver Canucks (Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler), the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp), defending Eastern Conference Champions holding the best record in the East Philadelphia Flyers (Danny Briere and Jeff Carter), the Anaheim Ducks (Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan) who are clutching onto the final playoff spot in the West, and the final team rounding out this list…I’ll give you a hint, they currently sit in second to last place in the Eastern Conference…Give up?…it’s the New York Islanders with Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson with 30 goals each.
The ironic part of both these players is that neither was drafted by the Islanders. They were pretty much given a chance by the Isles which has worked out far and away better than anyone could have ever expected. The last year in which the Isles had two 30 goals scorers was technically in 2006-07 when Jason Blake somehow lit the lamp 40 times and Ryan Smyth collected 36 (5 of which came with the NYI after being dealt over from the Oilers). Prior to that, the last season was in 2001-02 with Alexei Yashin netting 32 and Mark Parrish tallying 30.
The current standings just do not do this young Isles club justice. Their stellar play has them at a 12-6-5 mark since the All-Star Break. The youthful team is finally playing with some consistency and competing at a high level night in and night out. There are a lot of players that deserve credit for this resurgence, but the two Isles I would like to single out are the young speedster Michael Grabner and the Ivy League Grad Matt Moulson.
Mr. Grabner’s road to stardom began as he literally burst onto the scene winning the NHL’s Fastest Skater Competition in Raleigh, NC. Since that point Grabner has notched 15 goals 9 assists for 24 points in 23 contests. He is leading all rookies in goals and ranks third in points trailing Hurricane Jeff Skinner by 6 points and only 2 points shy of Shark Logan Couture. It has not been all sunshine and roses for this Calder Trophy candidate. Originally drafted in the 1st Round 14th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks the young enigmatic scorer has gone through his share of ups and downs early in his career. After putting together a respectable 11 points in 21 games last season the Canucks shipped Grabner along with Steve Bernier and their first round draft pick (25th selection used to select Quinton Howden) to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich on draft day. From there Grabner attended the Panthers training camp and failed to make the team, being waived October 3rd, little did he know he would be catching his big break 2 days later when he was claimed by Garth Snow and the New York Islanders. Grabner seems to be really taking off with his new linemates Kyle Okposo and one of the NHL’s most underrated players Frans Nielsen. He is utilizing his speed to find the holes and generate really good scoring opportunities. Currently on pace for 34 goals, Grabner has my vote for the Calder Trophy.
Matt Moulson has reached the 30 goal plateau for the second consecutive season. Now Grabner was at least a former first round pick, Moulson was taken in the 9th Round 263rd overall in the 2003 Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. A draft year which saw the Islanders select Robert Nilsson 15th overall, who is now a member of the Ulfa Salavat Yulayev of the KHL after being part of the package in the aforementioned Ryan Smyth trade. Now Moulson is not exactly the same type of player the electric Grabner is, but he is just as efficient. Playing alongside talented John Tavares, Moulson scores many of his goals by just stationing himself around the net. In addition, Moulson gets a good amount of goals by way of the power play with 9 of his 30 coming with the man advantage. Moulson’s quest to the NHL was a much longer road than most 30 goal scorers must travel. After enjoying a great college career at Cornell where he led the team in scoring 3 of his 4 seasons Moulson signed as a free agent with the LA Kings in September of 2006. After enjoying a few successful campaigns with their AHL affiliate Manchester Monarchs, Moulson caught his break with the Islanders when they selected John Tavares hailing from Mississauga, ONT first overall in 2009. Moulson also from Mississauga knew Tavares since his childhood and the Islanders brought him on board to make sure Tavares was comfortable in his new surroundings.
Now 30 goal scorers do not have to be highly touted prospects, but one thing is for sure…being a 30 goal scorer will get you paid as Moulson is evidence of that signing a nice three-year extension with the Islanders worth $9.45 million.