Heading into the new season, there is obviously a great deal of buzz around this Minnesota Wild club. That’s what happens when you snag both of the top free agents out on the market.
But as exciting as the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are, there is another reason to be intrigued by this squad in 2012-13: the arrival of Mikael Granlund.
The 20-year-old finally signed with the Wild this summer after he was selected ninth overall by Minnesota in the 2010 NHL Draft. He spent the two previous seasons playing back in Finland before deciding to sign over in the NHL on his three-year deal.
Granlund has been impressive in his past couple of years, playing for HIFK in SM-liiga. Last year, in particular, was a strong year for Granlund. He put up 51 points in 45 games, including 20 goals. He also played for Finland in the World Championships this year, posting five points in 10 games for the fourth place team.
Playing in the middle, Granlund has the potential to step right into the center role on the second line for the Wild. He possesses tremendous upside as a superb playmaker, he’s extremely intelligent, and should be an All Star before long. It’s that type of potential that has already set some pretty high expectations for Granlund.
This isn’t a kid making the jump from juniors up in Canada either. He’s been playing in one of the top European leagues with men, not fellow teenagers. While we’ve obviously seen plenty of players make the jump from the OHL or other leagues of the like, the fact that Granlund has been playing in SM-liiga is a huge plus.
What Mikael Granlund lacks in speed and size (just 5’10″), he makes up for with the rest of his skill set, being his smarts and his stick handling. He’s also a strong defender up the middle. The potential is there, and the Wild and their fans are expecting him to realize it soon.
Granlund will play a big part in the success of the Minnesota Wild this season. Obviously Parise and Suter are terrific additions, but the Wild may still just be a fringe playoff team in the Western Conference with them. But if Granlund can come over and make a quick impact, even if it takes him a bit of time to adjust, things get a whole lot more interesting for this team in 2012-2013.
As intriguing as this team will be to watch because of their high-profile additions, it will be equally fun to watch Mikael Granlund’s adjustment to the NHL. Many people are already talking Calder Trophy for him, and it’s not difficult to see why.