The Minnesota Wild have historically had reasonable success in the NHL Entry Draft. They started a trend of great picks with their first selection in franchise history, Slovakian winger Marian Gaborik. But today, ask any Wild fan about Gaborik and you’ll hear a few relatively derogatory remarks followed by the fact that, “we didn’t want him anyway.”
If you heard the truth, you’d hear that Minnesota has always embraced Gaborik and would most likely welcome the 86 points he had last year to a struggling Minnesota team.
The Wild haven’t always been on the downside of their draft picks though. In 2001 the Wild selected Mikko Koivu, two year captain and first line center for Minnesota. Most would argue he could be one of the best playmaking centers in the NHL, behind obvious superstars like Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals and Sidney Crosby of the Penguins.
After that, in 2002, Minnesota selected center Pierre-Marc Bouchard, another great player for the Wild, followed by Brent Burns in 2003. Brent Burns is probably the player that the Wild are preparing most to be a household name in Minnesota. Burns is leading the league amongst defenseman in goals, with five, and is above the league average in assists—which is two—with three.
Last year, with the 16th overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft, the Wild selected the Minnesota native defenseman Nick Leddy. Leddy is from Eden Prairie, Minnesota and had grown up a wild fan. Being selected by the Minnesota Wild was the best this that could have happened for him. That is, until he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he became an instant fan favorite. This trade, you could say, has lowered the legitimacy level that Minnesota fans see in the front office.
Finally, this year, the Minnesota Wild decided to go out on a limb and select a Finnish forward by the name of Mikael Granlund. Obviously with the success of Koivu, the Wild felt that trying out another Finnish playmaker wouldn’t be a bad choice to make. If it weren’t for the fact that with the exception of the Koivu brothers, most Finnish players haven’t succeeded in the NHL—I think most Minnesota fans would agree with this ideology.
Granlund is an 18-year-old center from Oulu, Finland. He is relatively small at 5'10", 178 pounds, but he knows how to take a hit and shows that with his ability to stay balanced and keep his composure. Granlund will be playing for his SM-Liiga team HIFK Helsinki in 2010-2011, so we won’t be seeing him playing in the NHL until next season. But as a Junior A League All-Star, and one of the captains of the Finnish Junior National Team, Granlund looks to enter the NHL in grand style.
Mikael Granlund has also been respectful of his fans and peers in the past. You may not think that is important, but any Minnesota sports fan has learned how this can really affect your team with the recent allegations of Randy Moss.
Watch any YouTube video of Granlund and look at the comments fellow Fins are making. You Will see that he has created quite the cult of personality for himself in Finland. The fans can’t say enough about him, and that’s something that Wild fans love to see.
Granlund is very excited to be in the NHL, and even more excited to play on a team that has embraced Finnish hockey with the likes of All-Stars like Koivu and goalie Niklas Backstrom.
Although only time will tell, I think Mikael Granlund has the skills and mindset to become an NHL superstar by the time he turns 22.
The NHL is seeing a lot more speed and a lot less size coming from overseas, and that’s exactly what Granlund brings to the table. Whether he’s dangling through the defense, sniping a rocket top shelf, or threading the needle with a precision pass, Minnesota should be looking forward to the arrival of this future star.