As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is Mikael Granlund.
Firstly, I must say that Dakota already wrote a cool and awesome article about Granlund a while ago so make sure you read that too to get his take.
The expectations could not have been higher for Granlund entering his rookie season. After spending the lockout playing extremely well for the Houston Aeros in the AHL, he was in the line-up, as the 2nd line centre, for the opening night game against the Colorado Avalanche, where he scored his first NHL goal. After that he struggled to get to grips with NHL-level hockey, often getting knocked off his feet by bigger players and being unable to control the puck. His consistency issues weren’t helped when he was demoted to the 4th line or sent back to the AHL regularly rather than being given a decent chance to play with the same linemates for a while in the NHL.
He had a decent stint with the team just before the end of the year, which included a game in Columbus where he set-up this very nice powerplay goal, but in the end, he was sent back to the AHL before the playoffs.
Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year:
|SHOOTING %/SHOTS ATTEMPTED||5.6/36|
Granlund’s production was actually better than one might expect. 8 points in 27 games is decent for a rookie, and he managed to get 36 shots on goal, which is impressive, considering how he was tossed around like a ragdoll on the ice a lot of the time. He played a reasonable amount of ice time, with a lot of powerplay opportunities. He struggled at the face-off dot at first, but improved as the year went on, eventually finishing with a 47% win rate.
As he is a natural centre, I think there was an organisational policy not to move him to wing just to make life easier for him. The Wild want him to develop as a centre, so he will always play that position, whether it be in the NHL or in the AHL.
Here are his underlying numbers from last year:
|OFFENSIVE ZONE START %||54%|
|OFFENSIVE ZONE FINISH %||42.3%|
|QUALITY OF COMPETITION||-1.483|
|SHOTS FOR/20 MINS||7.645|
|GOALS FOR/20 MINS||0.465|
|SHOTS AGAINST/20 MINS||11.234|
|GOALS AGAINST/20 MINS||0.864|
|5v5 1stÂ ASSIST/60||0.598|
Granlund’s possession numbers are downright ugly. He had what I would consider to be a fairly low percentage of offensive zone starts (considering he was a rookie struggling to find his feet in the NHL) and didn’t face the toughest competition. His Corsi numbers were the worst on the team and indicate just how much he struggled in puck possession last year. His low PDO suggests that he suffered from some bad luck in terms of On-Ice Shooting% and On-Ice Save %, which is something positive at least.
This player usage chart shows all Wild forwards who played at least 20 games last year:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
As you can see above, Granlund played a fairly sheltered role and got eaten-alive in Corsi. Yuck.
I think part of Granlund’s problem this year was the lack of consistent linemates, and also a lack of chances to play with high-quality forwards who could drive possession and take some of the pressure off him. His most regular linemates were:
Having Granlund playing with Setoguchi most of the time he was in the NHL is baffling. Setoguchi is talented, but extremely streaky. Bouchard is a good possession player, but, like Granlund, he is small and not very physical, so having the two of them on the ice at the same time is a bad idea. Cullen should not be playing wing. Heatley is too reliant on his Centre to drive the play, so he was not the best fit for Granlund.
If I’m trying to get a top prospect who is struggling to find his feet some confidence, I would give him a chance to play with Parise on his wing. Koivu would continue to do well with anyone on his wing, and Parise might have helped Granlund out a lot. With Parise at LW, I would then have Charlie Coyle at RW because he showed very early on that he was comfortable at NHL-level and could drive possession while bringing some physicality. If not Coyle, then maybe Clutterbuck could’ve been a good fit. He’s a decent possession forward for a guy known mostly for hitting a lot. Having a couple of good possession-drivers either side of Granlund could have resulted in him having a much better time in the NHL.
Obviously, this is all just wishful thinking now. What’s done is done and Granlund will have another chance this season. He will be competing for the 2C spot with Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula and Kyle Brodziak. If he can do enough to win it, then his probable linemates are Heatley and Coyle. I would much rather have Coyle on the 1st line and Pominville on Granlund’s wing. Having a veteran, ex-captain with a knack for finding the net on his wing could help Granlund have a smooth landing this year.
It’s worrying when a top prospect with a lot of hype doesn’t hit the ground running, but I’m confident that Granlund will have a good season and quiet the doubters who have already begun panicking and throwing around the word “bust”. Remember, playmakers take longer to develop than goalscorers.
His Season Is A Success If…
His Season Is A Disappointment If…
….he continues to be a poor possession player and finds himself bouncing between Minnesota and Iowa.
Okay, that’s it for Granlund. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Jason Pominville and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.
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*Numbers in this article courtesy of:
Topics: Cal Clutterbuck, Charlie Coyle, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Houston Aeros, Jason Pominville, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen, Mikael Granlund, Mike Yeo, Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Wild Preview, Zach Parise