ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 02: Michael Grabner #40 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates a goal in the second period against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on April 2, 2010 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Vancouver and Florida made a draft-day swap: the Panthers sent D Keith Ballard and F Victor Oreskovich to Vancouver for F Steve Bernier, the #25 draft pick and F Michael Grabner. Forget the picks and Bernier's contract - this deal basically boils down to Ballard for Grabner, which then boils down to Grabner's value. Which is?
Grabner had a nice tryout with the big club this year, posting 11 points in 20 games while getting significant time on the power play and lining up alongside Ryan Kesler in the offensive zone more often than not. But is that an accurate reflection of his talent? Grabner actually spent a huge amount of time in the AHL, so we can use that to judge his abilities. Let's compare him to other players who had big AHL careers from age 19 to 21:
Grabner's comps are the 113 players born 1950-1985 who played 150-210 games in the AHL, IHL or old CHL between age 19 and 21. As you can see, the comp group didn't exactly light up the NHL over the next four seasons - they produced just 28 points per 82 games and spent 57% of their time in the minors.
Now that might not be the best comp group - they were more typical hockey players than Grabner, who is a scorer first and a playmaker second, and they also included some higher-scoring defensemen. Let's look at how the top 57 goal-scorers in our dataset did:
That's a group that's more similar to Grabner, likely better - they have virtually the same number of goals per season and quite a few more assists. And their performance in the NHL was even worse than the first group. Fully 51% of them played fewer than 40 games in the NHL over the next four seasons. There are a few good players in this group - Pavol Demitra, Guy Carbonneau, Keith Acton, Tomas Plekanec - but the odds are stacked against Grabner.
Grabner is a bit of a unique player - it's very rare that a big scorer spends so much time in the minors without making the jump to the bigs. But players who fit his general profile as a 3-year AHL repeater before age 22 don't tend to produce much in the NHL. The average four-year value of his comps is about $2M over the minimum salary, but the median value is zero, which will most likely make this trade a win for Vancouver.