It’s been a career year for 25-year-old Mikael Granlund. Through just 70 games this season, he has posted career highs in goals, assists, power play points and shots. Granlund currently sits 12th in the NHL in scoring and leads the Minnesota Wild with 66 points and only 12 penalty minutes. Not only has Granlund developed statistically, he has also developed as a skater and a competitor. He is much stronger on the puck, makes better decisions without it and has begun to shoot more.
After being selected ninth overall in the 2010 NHL draft, the Wild hoped Granlund would become the elite scorer that they had been missing since the departure of Marian Gaborik. He showed massive amounts of potential in the Finnish league, where he competed and dominated as a teenager. Granlund, however, took some time to develop at the NHL level. Having struggled to find consistency in scoring in 2015-16, interim coach John Torchetti decided to move him to center. The rest is history. Granlund plays full-time now at the wing position and has had a tremendous year for the Wild, but can he be considered as an elite player?
Nose for the Net
One of the biggest differences between this season and previous ones is that Granlund is going to the net more. It was a frustrating thing, watching number 64 over the past four seasons. He always seemed reluctant to go to the net or shoot the puck and would often elect to pass instead of taking the puck to the net himself. This year has been much different. If you look at his goals, Granlund has shown that he has matured as a shooter. He has been taking the puck hard to the net and shooting when a quality scoring chance has presented itself. As a result, the Finnish winger is scoring on a much more frequent basis.
Moving From Center to Wing
The move from center to wing was the best decision for the Wild. This was something interim coach John Torchetti experimented with at the end of last season and Bruce Boudreau felt that was where he played his best. No longer being at center has allowed Granlund to focus more on creating offense. As a center, you have more defensive responsibilities that can hinder certain players’ offensive production. Now that he is at wing, we’ve seen just how dangerous of a player Granlund is.
Granlund Showing True Potential
When asked if he did anything differently this summer, Granlund told ESPN that he didn’t change his routine at all. “I did pretty much everything the same last summer as I’ve done before. It’s just one of those things. I’ve played good hockey before this year, but now pucks are going in.” The potential has always been there, but with the move to wing and a new head coach, Granlund has become a vital part of this Minnesota Wild team. A huge difference between this year and years past has been his consistency. He’s been able to contribute offensively on a consistent basis. At one point, Granlund had a 12 game point streak going, which has been the longest point streak of any player in the NHL this season. To further emphasize his consistency, he has gone more than two games without a point just once all season. This kid is the real deal and he’s shown us why he can be considered as an elite player.