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NHL Award Watch: Mikael Granlund A Top Rookie of the Year Candidate?

The looming inevitability of an NHL lockout is enough to kill any hockey fan’s buzz, and Minnesota Wild fans may be particularly downtrodden with the offseason additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter creating high expectations for the team.

With the free agent signings of Parise and Suter grabbing most of the headlines this summer, it’s easy to forget that 2010 first-round pick (ninth overall) Mikael Granlund has officially joined the team and will make his debut whenever the puck drops on the 2012-2013 season.

Despite being just 20 years old, Granlund has extensive experience playing in his home country of Finland in the Finnish Elite League as well as in international competition in various IIHF World Championship tournaments. In 129 career games played in his home country, over six seasons at both the junior level and in the Elite League, Granlund has 127 points (86 assists) along with three 20-plus goal seasons to his credit. In 47 total games at various levels of World Championships, including U18 (under 18) and U20 (under 20), he has 13 goals and 47 assists.

Granlund has to be considered among the earlier front runners for the Calder Trophy, given each year to the league’s top rookie. At this point he is penciled in by Wild head coach Mike Yeo on the team’s second forward line, centering a line that currently includes wingers Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. Given how experienced he is and how productive he has been playing against some of the best competition Europe and the world has to offer outside of the NHL, Granlund’s transition should be fairly smooth. At the very minimum, he brings some skill to a Wild team that sorely needs it after being one of the more inept offensive teams in the league in recent years.