The most heralded prospect in Minnesota Wild history has finally signed on the dotted line. Mikael Granlund, the 20 year old Finnish wonder, signed a three year entry level contract with the franchise, ushering in a new era for an organization that has been stuck on mediocrity since its inception.
The Wild have been extremely patient with the Fin since selecting him with the 9th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft, allowing him to remain in his native Finland so that he could develop in a league that is considered to be one of the most competitive and physical in Europe. That decision paid off when Granlund emerged as a top prospect after leading his HIFK Helsinki side to the Finnish Elite League title when he was only 19 years old.
It was that success that ultimately led to his promotion to the senior Finnish National team where he made his debut in the 2011 IIHF World Championship. It was also at that competition that Granlund elevated himself from a top prospect to a potential superstar prospect with a single lacrosse style goal that still leaves people speechless.
For the Wild Granlund is the perfect prospect. Not because of his flair, but because he fills a gaping hole in the lineup. The closest thing that the Wild have to a dynamic playmaker is Mikko Koivu. While no one will deny that Koivu is one of the best two way players in the NHL, he is not the elite playmaker that can carry a team past the first round of the playoffs. Granlund on the other hand has the vision, stick work and creativity that is necessary to conduct a high powered attack. That’s not to say that he will become that player for the Wild, he just has the required tools.
Perhaps the most important factor in the Granlund signing is what it signifies for the Wild organization. There has always been a lack of young talent within the organization due to their inability to produce quality draft classes and that has hung over the team like a plaque. With Granlund’s class in 2010, that changed.
Not only will Granlund be joining the Wild but so will other top prospects Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker. Add in 2011 picks Jonas Brodin, Zach Phillips and Charlie Coyle (acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the Brent Burns trade) and you are looking at the future of the Minnesota Wild.
It seems that for the first time in a long time the Wild have built a young core of players, led by Granlund, who could turn around the fortunes of a franchise who have not seen the playoffs in three years. At least let’s hope that is the case.