At a public appearance at the Minnesota State Fair last week, Wild head coach Mike Yeo indicated that he would start Mikael Granlund as the second-line center in training camp, flanked by Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi.
Yeo also said Pierre-Marc Bouchard would be bumped down to the third line, to skate with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck. But the big news is that Granlund will get a shot at playing top-six minutes right out of the gate for the Wild. This is not really surprising, considering how great he has played in he SM-liiga in recent years. It makes sense for the Wild to take a gamble and see what Granlund can do against NHL competition sooner rather than later, because if he can skate with the big boys he could help out a team right away that has been desperate for offense.
I have to wonder about the decision to skate Cullen on the second line and bump Bouchard instead of keeping PMB or even Brodziak in the top-six. If Granlund is the playmaker on that line and Setoguchi is the finisher, then what role does Cullen serve skating on the wing? At age 35, Cullen is not really a dynamic player any longer, and I would tend to think that someone like Bouchard would be a better complement to Granlund.
And I’m sure PMB is none too happy about being bumped to the third line, although a combination of Bouchard-Brodziak-Clutterbuck could still do some damage.
Ultimately, it is still just the start of training camp, and I think the more important message is that Granlund will be given every opportunity to make the club and even get top-six minutes right away. Line combinations can and will change, so it remains to be seen just who settles on the Granlund line, but it’s looking more and more like Koivu and Granlund are the Wild’s no. 1 and no. 2 center.