After stumbling in the second half of the 2013 season and grabbing the no. 8 seed in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild will head into the new year with some pretty high expectations. Coming off of a season that saw them add some serious star power and a playoff spot, failure isn’t an option anymore for them.
The 2013-14 season should see more improvement for the Wild. They’ve added some solid role players this summer to add to their core group of stars, and solid group of young players that have emerged as assets over the past year. In fact, it’s one of those young players that will prove to be the x-factor for the Wild in 2013-14.
Mikael Granlund came into the season as a potential Calder Trophy favorite, but was unable to meet those expectations in his first year. He finished the year with just eight points in 27 games, while bouncing between the Wild and the Houston Aeros throughout the year.
He showed flashes of the player that he can become, but was unable to put it together consistently. That doesn’t mean that any sort of hope is lost for his career, just that he wasn’t able to put it together as quickly as many would have liked. But heading into the new season, he’s a potential x-factor for them.
Granlund is a center with huge upside. He’s serviceable in the faceoff circle, but is a superb playmaker. It’s his playmaking skills and his fantastic hands that will have him as a tremendous offensive threat for this club. He’ll likely have an opportunity to succeed on that second line, where the Wild need an offensive threat.
If Granlund can take the next steps forward, and prove a strong setup man for the solid group of wingers that this Wild team has in the mix, this can go from a fringe playoff team, to a legitimate threat in the postseason. Whether or not he’ll take those steps, though, we’ll have to wait and see.