June 10, 2010 Leave a comment
The NHL has not had a dominant young Finnish superstar since arguably Teemu Selanne. That may all change when Mikael Granlund becomes the first European player to be drafted when the 2010 NHL Entry Draft arrives in June.
Playing for HIFK’s junior team in the Finnish Elite League in the 2008-09 season, Granlund dominated the competition, scoring 57 points in just 35 games. After being promoted to the big league for the 2009-10 season, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound center put up 40 points in 43 games as a rookie in the second-highest league in Europe.
“He doesn’t have the same kind of intensity [as Saku Koivu],” a Sports Illustrated writer says, “But he’s very clever with the puck and has a good shot. I like his confidence. He’s a 17-year-old kid playing in the top league in Finland and he’s third on his team in scoring. He’s not fancy but he makes things happen.”
Granlund only had three points in six games at the World Junior Championships on a disappointing Finland team, but he was one of the 2010 U-18 World Championship players as named by the coaches, he has been the top-ranked European skater since the beginning of the year and continues to be the top-ranked European after Central Scouting released their final rankings.
Scouts say he could be one of the best players ever to come out of Finland, and for good reason. Granlund dazzles the crowd every time he has the puck. He is one of the fastest skaters in his league, has a powerful and accurate shot, and can increase the stats of the players around him. Simply go to Youtube and search his name, and you will see a string of highlights of him threading the needle perfectly with passes that only guys like Sidney Crosby can make.
He is not very big and NHL teams would like him to increase his size before coming over to North America, but he has proven that he can play against bigger players.
As a rookie, Granlund had a plus-12 rating, tied for the lead on a team that finished towards the top of the standings. This shows that he can not only create offense, but he is defensively committed and backchecks hard off the rush to prevent goals against.
The North American prospects are plentiful and no NHL teams are complaining of a lack of talent in this year’s draft, but don’t count Granlund out of the draft lottery teams. He could go towards the end of the first round, but he could just as easily go in the top 10.
There are always murmurs and rumors of European players as far as their commitment to the NHL and such, but don’t believe these for one second. Granlund has stated his desire to play in the NHL, and with his track record, don’t be shocked if a team calls his name in the top fifteen in June.
Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.