Ben Lovejoy of the Penguins and Michael Grabner of the...

Ben Lovejoy of the Penguins and Michael Grabner of the Islanders chase the puck in the firt period. (April 8, 2011) Credit: David Pokress

From waiver wire to red carpet in a matter of months, 23-year-old Michael Grabner has had one unpredictable year.

Claimed off waivers by the Islanders from Florida in October, Grabner was named one of three finalists for the NHL's Calder Trophy Tuesday.

Grabner joins San Jose's Logan Couture and Carolina's Jeff Skinner as candidates for the league's Rookie of the Year award. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 22.

"It feels good," Grabner said. "There were a lot of good rookies this year -- good young defensemen and goalies -- and it's nice to be nominated with them."

The speedy Austrian winger finished with a team-leading 34 goals -- most among rookies -- and 18 assists for 52 points in 76 games.

Fellow rookie forwards Couture and Skinner mounted impressive first-year campaigns, as well. The baby-faced, 18-year-old Skinner led all rookies in scoring with 63 points (31 goals, 32 assists) and Couture finished second on the second-seeded Sharks' playoff team with 56 points (32 goals, 24 assists).

"They're great players," Grabner said. "They have a stacked team in San Jose and Couture was second in [scoring]; coming in as a rookie and being part of that success is hard to do on a team like that. And there is some high-end talent in Carolina and [Skinner] was one of their leaders."

Grabner's startling success was not foreseen by Florida, which waived him in October after a poor training camp. And although Vancouver drafted him in the first round (14th overall) in 2006, they traded him to the Panthers at the draft last June.

His speed and skill was immediately apparent once he joined the Islanders, and with greater opportunity and increased ice time, Grabner saw results.

After earning fastest skater honors at the All-Star weekend in Raleigh, N.C., in January, Grabner went on a red-hot tear to become the second-leading rookie goal-scorer in franchise history behind Mike Bossy.

He is the first rookie to score at least 34 goals since Alex Ovechkin (52) and Sidney Crosby (39) in 2005-06.

"This was a great opportunity coming here," he said. "They gave me a chance and my goal was to just make an NHL team and stick on. Anything else was just a bonus."

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