The Montreal Canadiens selected Mikhail Grabovsky in the fifth round of the NHL entry draft, making him the 150th player selected overall, but raising many questions to fans who had never heard of the smallish left winger, who has just finished his rookie season playing in the Russian Super league. Many fans might have wondered why the Canadiens scouting staff would go off the board and select an overage Euro, who had been passed over in prior drafts. One would have to think that the Canadiens scouting staff saw something in Grabovsky while watching their 2003 first round pick and fellow countryman Andrei Kostitsyn play, as they skated together for Team Belarus at the 2004 U-20 Division I Group B World Junior tournament. Grabovsky was fourth on the team in scoring, right behind Kostitsyn. If not for being impressed in that tournament, there was also the 2003 U-18 World Junior team and other international play, as well as their time spent in the EEHL, as Grabovsky played for HC Younst Minsk club.
After an impressive rookie season in the RSL, where the then 19 year old Grabovsky ended up fifth on the team in scoring, despite playing on the fourth line in limited action. While he didn’t attend the Canadiens rookie camp this past summer with fellow countryman Andrei Kostitsyn, Grabovsky has found more success with Neftekhimik this year, as he already has reached career highs in just about every statistical category.
While I was not able to interview Mikhail personally, I was able to have someone interview him over in Russia. I want to say thanks for his help and efforts on a job well done.
HW: Your season in the RSL has been very successful so far this year, in your words what would you attribute that to?
MG: I think because of good preseason preparation. And coaching staff is putting faith in me, giving enough playing time and my line-mates are great and good guys to play with. And of course I am gaining experience with every played game so it helps me very much also. Truly speaking, I feel a little bit fatigued already in the end of the last couple games because I played almost every game since the beginning of the season. And my stats are not looking good at the moment (37 GP 8 G + 11 A=19 P +3 PIM 24 so far), I guess. But I am sure that will come later on – I am still young and have room and time to improve.
HW: What are your plans for the future, on coming to North America, will you be attending the rookie camp this summer by chance?
MG: I guess taking into account my conversation with my agents that next year I would go to Montreal training camp anyway. And then we’ll see if I am good for Montreal or not. But I ‘d like to play another year in Russia in order to gain good physical shape and progress further in terms of my skills. I need it because I have to be completely ready to play in North America, where the style is quite different, and not everybody can adjust there at once.
HW: What area of your game do you feel needs the most improvement and what steps have you taken to work on this?
MG: I think I should mature physically. That’s the main aspect.
HW: What was your reaction to be drafting by the most historic hockey team in the NHL the Montreal Canadiens?
MG: Yeah, I haven’t been on the draft, at that time I was on a vacation in Turkey. My reaction? Positive of course (smiling). But I thought that Vancouver would choose me because I was told earlier that there is 90-percent possibility that Canucks would draft me. And Montreal after all…It was surprising. And I also remembered that Montreal drafted my previous partner Andrei Kostitsyn.
HW: Will you get the chance to watch your countrymen take on the top hockey nations at the WJC’s, after being a major part of helping the team win their division last year? What do you think of this years team?
MG: Sure I will follow after Belorussia U-20 performances on WJC, its my country. And my closest friend Konstantin Zakharov is playing in this team, send greeting to him if you meet him. I think that everything will be OK for him and our team at this tournament. Also, my coach (Mikhail Zakharov) is in this team – he did everything he could to push me to play in RSL. And his arguments played a big part in my decision to move to Russia, even though my agents also insisted on it too.