Difference makers in Minnesota sports: 12 for 2012

  • Article by: Star Tribune staff
  • Updated: January 8, 2012 - 8:54 AM
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Mikael Granlund, Wild prospect

For the first time since Marian Gaborik in 2000 and Mikko Koivu in 2001, the Wild may have finally drafted a blue-chip forward — one on the cusp of NHL stardom.

Presuming there’s no hang-up in signing Mikael Granlund before June 1, the Finnish superstar is a lock to make next year’s Wild roster. As a 17-year-old in a league made up of men, Granlund scored 40 points in 43 games for IFK-Helsinki and was named the Finnish Elite League’s Rookie of the Year. As an 18-year-old, Granlund led IFK to a championship by tying for the league’s scoring lead.

As a 19-year-old, he’s currently second in the league in scoring.

To put that production in perspective, Koivu combined for eight points in the same league as a 17- and 18-year-old.

Granlund’s a Finnish rock star.

He appears on murals all over Helsinki and became the toast of Finland last spring by helping the proud country to a world championship in part because of a highlight-reel, lacrosse goal in the semifinals that’s been captured on a postage stamp.

The ninth overall pick in 2010, Granlund can fly up ice, handles the puck beautifully and almost nonchalantly creates offense. He’s as good a distributor and a shooter and could give the Wild a bona fide Rookie of the Year candidate next season.

MICHAEL RUSSO

Photo: Michal Kamaryt, Associated Press

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Having endured a hugely forgettable sports year — the Lynx and NSC Minnesota Stars soccer team notwithstanding — Minnesota fans begin the New Year with a sense of hope. Ricky Rubio looks as good as the hype that preceded his arrival, the Wild look like a playoff team and things have to improve for the Gophers, who didn’t get a revenue program — football plus men’s basketball and hockey — into a postseason in 2011.

The Vikings might soon get the go-ahead for a new stadium, and the Twins have the annual optimism of spring training going for them.

Almost forgot: The Lynx figure to be even better.

The Star Tribune has highlighted  a dozen (OK, we’re counting the Twins’ M&M boys as a single entry) people who will have to make a positive impact over the next 12 months for the present day hope to evolve into success. Click through the photo gallery below to read about them and what they could bring to Minnesota sports fans.

  
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  • Zygi Wilf

  • Ricky Rubio

  • Adrian Peterson

  • Rachel Banham

  • Peter Sorensen

  • Kent Patterson

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

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Toronto - LP: A. Loup 4 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: J. Outman 6
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: R. Porcello 2
Atlanta - LP: G. Schlosser 3 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: J. Valverde 4
Seattle - LP: T. Wilhelmsen 2 FINAL
Miami - WP: M. Dunn 3
St. Louis - LP: S. Maness 2 FINAL
Washington - WP: R. Soriano 3
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Gomez 2
NY Yankees - WP: P. Claiborne 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: H. Bell 1
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: Y. Ventura 3
Cincinnati - WP: H. Bailey 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: C. Villanueva 2
Chicago WSox - WP: E. Johnson 16 FINAL
Texas - LP: R. Ross Jr. 2
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Chavez 4
Philadelphia - WP: J. Diekman 10 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 9
San Francisco - WP: T. Lincecum 4 FINAL
San Diego - LP: R. Erlin 3
Arizona - LP: J. Collmenter 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: J. Wright 4
Baltimore - LP: B. Matusz 5 FINAL
Boston - WP: E. Mujica 6
Dallas 85 FINAL
San Antonio 90
Charlotte 88 FINAL
Miami 99
Washington 102 FINAL
Chicago 93
Portland 122 FINAL
Houston 120
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Detroit 1 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
San Jose 7
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