The National Hockey League announced its weekly Three Stars awards for the week ending on January 29 today. Of the three, Mikhail Grabovski of the Toronto Maple Leafs not only made the list, but he topped it. This is just one more accolade that Grabovski can add to an already impressive season.
Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne were named the second and third stars in a week that only consisted of two games for each of the three teams.
At 27 years of age, Grabovski is currently in his fourth full NHL season. He broke into the league with the Montreal Canadiens in 2006 when he appeared in three games, but spent most of the 2006-2007 season with the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs.
He eventually got his shot with 24 games during the 2007-2008 season with Montreal, but registered just three goals and six assists. Not only did he struggle on the ice, but he wasn’t able to see eye t0 eye with the team off of it, either. With that, he was traded to the Maple Leafs during the summer of 2008 for Greg Pateryn and a second round draft pick in what later turned out to be a steal for the Leafs.
Grabovski’s five points in the two games that the Maple Leafs played last week─both of which came against the New York Islanders─proved to the strength behind the Leafs’ pair of wins. That statement is nothing new, as the Belorussian has led the Leafs to multiple victories over the past two seasons.
That comes as no surprise considering that Grabovski fell just one goal short of the 30-goal plateau last season. He hasn’t dropped off this season either, as he is currently on-pace to score 28 goals and notch 56 points. Keep in mind that he has also missed six games due to injury.
One reason why Grabovski has been able to succeed in Toronto is the ice time that he has received. Leafs head coach Ron Wilson has rewarded Grabovski for his strong play and now leans on him in heavy situations. This is proven by his average of 17:12 minutes per game, fifth among Leaf forwards. His crafty offence and strong hockey mind have also been instrumental to the Leafs’ power play.
This season, Grabovski has tallied four power play goals. He enjoyed similar success on the man advantage last season when he managed to score 10 times on the power play. With the way he is currently scoring, he is on-pace to reach seven power play markers this season in five fewer games, once again showing that he hasn’t slacked off from last season.
To go along with his solid play on the ice, Grabovski has become a strong leader in the dressing room. This is apparent by the ‘A’ that he now frequently wears on the front of jersey, represent alternate captain status.
The only question now is, with his contract set to expire at season’s end, will the Leafs try to re-sign Grabovski, or will general manager Brian Burke and company see it fit to move the 5’11”, 183-pound centreman? That’s something that remains to be seen, but with the way he is going and how he has developed, it would certainly be hard to let go of such a player.
Lukas, a student at the University of Ottawa, covers the Toronto Maple Leafs on a part-time basis for The Hockey Writers. Contact Lukas at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter, @LukasHardonk.