Sunday, August 23, 2015

Marc-André Gragnani Autographed Card

Oh, what a difference four years make...

When I last featured Marc-André Gragnani, the Montréal native was well on his way to NHL stardom, about to win the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL's best defenseman, full of promise for the Buffalo Sabres' system.

But after four seasons of being called up and never staying in Buffalo on a permanent basis, he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks, who didn't retain his services after a half-season. He then went on to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, spending the bulk of his time with their AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers.

He then spent two seasons in Europe, first with the KHL's HC Lev Praha, and SC Bern of the Swiss League last year, posting an impressive 37 points in 49 games. He is slated to come back to North America this season, having signed a two-way deal with the New Jersey Devils in July.

I met him after his ''fourth rookie season'' in the summer of 2012, as I was a goaltending teacher at a hockey school and he came back to town for his off-season training. He signed this 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee card (#555 in the collection manufactured by Upper Deck, part of the Marquee Rookies sub-set) for me in blue sharpie:
It's ironic that such a gifted offensive defenseman would sign with the Devils, who are particularly deep at that position - and that position alone. It seems he didn't put himself in the best situation for easy NHL access, but then again, he probably did weigh his options and decided this one was best for him. I honestly don't see how he couldn't make it as a third-unit defender and first-unit powerplay specialist, particularly on teams such as the Canes, or the Phoenix Coyotes, or Toronto Maple Leafs, or a second-unit PP guy on teams such as the San Jose Sharks, Canucks or Boston Bruins.

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