The maturation of Mikhail Grabovski, hockey player savant, has been a stunning development of this Maple Leafs season gone right and wrong.

Grabovski wakes up and thinks hockey. He eats breakfast and thinks hockey. He goes home and thinks hockey. And in between, just about all he thinks about is hockey.

"To get to this level, all players are competitive," said Keith Acton, the Leafs assistant coach. "But Mikhail is driven. He's the kind of kid who is consumed by hockey. He's the kind of young man when he leaves the rink he's all about hockey and when he's here he watches video of his last game or video or of good players like (Sidney) Crosby or (Henrik) Zetterberg to see what he can learn from them.

"I've seen a lot of players. I haven't seen very many as totally consumed as he is," Acton said.

The Grabovski that Acton and Ron Wilson and Brian Burke talk about is not the Grabovski the public seems to know. The contradiction between inside and outside is stark. In Montreal, Grabovski didn't necessarily get along with those he played with on the Canadiens. That feud continued on to his time in Toronto. Off the ice, he's had a moment of two he'd rather not talk about. Just not anymore.

"I can't think of a more professional guy than Grabo," said Wilson, who has coached the centreman for three seasons, one good, one poor, this one close to great. "He spends every waking moment studying his own shifts and his line's shifts and trying to make himself better. He's totally focussed on being the best player he can be."

And for that, he's on his way. This is the last week of the regular season and as the Leafs prepare to play the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, Grabovski has scored just one goal fewer than Alexander Ovechkin and the same number as Ilya Kovalchuk. The 29 goals ranks him eighth among centres in the NHL. This from a team that was supposed to be lacking a front line centre.

Statistically, some of Grabovski's numbers are startling: He ranks 12th among centres in plus-minus, playing on a team that has given up more goals than it has scored. He is 12th at his position in the NHL in scoring at even strength, 20th in scoring overall among centres. And consumed as he may be, the statistics take something of a backseat to his becoming a father, his girlfriend giving birth to baby Vera earlier this season.