Breakout season doesn’t seem to do justice to describe the play of Mikael Granlund in this 2016-17 season. He’s already set a career mark in all offensive categories, and it seems like we’ve just seen the cementing of the young Finn’s future with the Wild.
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Here’s something you probably didn’t expect to see about this time last season…Mikael Granlund is the Minnesota Wild’s leading scorer. The young Finn has struggled to get here, but there has always been the thought that he’s talented enough to be in this strong position on the team. He seems to found a scoring touch in his game that is flourishing in his new role with his new coach.
Granny’s success this season is not simply limited to the Wild. Today he was just named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week just two days after posting his first career hat trick in a dominating performance in Vancouver. His point streak has now reached 12 games which is a NHL best this season, and according to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo no other player since December 7th has posted more assists or points in the NHL than Granlund.
It’s impressive to see Granlund not only have a breakout season, but a season that is shaping up to be one of the best if not the best on the team. Last season was his career high in points and goals, but this season he has already set his career mark in goals, assists, and points and he’s still got 31 more games to add to that total.
The reasons why for this change are actually pretty simple. The biggest is a well-known change of position and line mates. Moving the often physically outmatched Granlund from center to wing has allowed him to concentrate mostly on the things he does well like moving the puck and shooting the puck.
“With Finnish players they’re so responsible defensively, almost sometimes to a fault, especially for the offensive guys, this gave him a little more freedom” explained former Wild assistant coach Andrew Brunette to Russo. “Freedom to really get in on the forecheck and use his legs on the offensive side of the puck instead of always defending on the other side of the puck.”
By putting him on a line with the prototypical Finnish player Mikko Koivu, you’ve given Granlund the ability not to worry about the things that hampered his offensive ability. Koivu now worries about the defensive responsibility and the physical game, and not to mention he’s much better at it any ways.
The preview for this performance with Granlund came last season for sure when John Torchetti made the switch to but Granny on the wing. But where we really got a glimpse of how good it could be was in the IIHF World Championships where Granny tallied 4 goals and 8 assists playing on a Koivu centered line for Finland. His 12 points were good enough to be tied for 4th in tournament scoring, it was a dominating performance a glimpse into what could be this season.
Additionally, Granlund’s performance couldn’t have come a better time for him as he looks to the offseason and securing his future with the team. Before this run to the top of the Wild scoresheet it was widely thought that he might be looking a possible trade, possibly not being protected in the expansion draft, and being put at the bottom of a large list of free-agent priorities.
Now forget all that as the Wild will look to secure Granny’s services for the foreseeable future and reward him handsomely for his current performance. Right now he’s at the top of a free-agent pile that includes Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula, and right now there’s no doubt he’s going to be the first player they ink.
The Wild’s future has always seemed to include Granlund, but now with his excellent potential met there’s no doubt he’ll be included in this clubs plans. He’s the real deal and he’s proven it, and that’s always a great thing to see potential realized. Andrew Brunette sums up Granny’s potential best saying “I think he could be a captain one day. That’s how much character he has. He’s not going to be vocal, but just the way he approaches things. And in a big game, he’s one of the guys you want.”