Hard to imagine that 23-year-old rookie Michael Grabner is not making a strong case for himself as Rookie of the Year with his recent play.
Grabner has eight goals in the last four games, including his second career hat trick that was capped with the game-winning goal in the Islanders 7-6 OT win over Buffalo Sunday. Last night, Grabner tallied his team-leading 25th goal of the season, meanwhile passing San Jose's Logan Couture for the top spot among rookie goal-scorers around the league.
"I definitely think he belongs in that conversation," coach Jack Capuano said when asked before the game yesterday.
Beyond his scorching streak of late, Grabner has delivered sustained production over the past five weeks or so. Grabner's 16 goals in the past 15 games is the most by an NHL span by an NHL rookie since Teemu Selanne 16-in-15 for Winnipeg in 1992-92 (that stat courtesy of team statistician Eric Hornick, via Elias Sports Bureau).
"I'm not trying to think about it," Grabner said with a modest shrug. "I just want to keep improving.
In the past month, Grabner also won the fastest skater award at the All Star Game skills competition and has been named one of the NHL's top three stars twice.
It's been a year of milestones for Grabner (who, by the way, will welcome the birth of his first child with girlfriend Heather next month) and he hopes that doesn't stop.
"I don't want to look back now."