Sharing the Wild spotlight takes pressure off Granlund

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 14, 2012 - 10:18 PM

The Parise-Suter buzz might enable Mikael Granlund to slip in quietly and adjust to NHL life.

hide

Mikael Granlund, practicing last week during the Wild development camp at St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights, has played wing, but he is a natural center.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the Wild signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter was Mikael Granlund. Now, instead of all the focus in training camp being on the arrival of the Finnish star, the buzz surrounding Parise and Suter will allow Granlund to ease quietly onto the scene.

Of course, if anybody can handle being under the microscope, it's Granlund -- the Wild's much-hyped 2010 first-round pick. Granlund's mug is on murals all over Helsinki. He is followed by paparazzi. His relationships are the subject of tabloid fodder. He's so popular, a Finnish magazine is sending a columnist to live in the Twin Cities.

It's no wonder Granlund, here for the Wild prospect camp, said Thursday, "I don't feel any pressure."

As agent Todd Diamond said after the Wild signed Granlund to a three-year contract in May, it's like "Lennon and McCartney" when Granlund walks down the streets in his native country.

"He's used to lots of media attention where he's from," said Brent Flahr, Wild assistant general manager. "I think coming here in general will be a break from a lot of it, to be honest with you. But the focus on [Parise and Suter] just gives him time to adjust, like any young player, to the NHL."

Coach Mike Yeo's initial plan is to give Granlund, 20, a look at second-line center when training camp begins in September.

Granlund has played wing, but he is a natural center. He plays center for Finland in international competitions and has played center for IFK-Helsinki. So Yeo wants Granlund to feel as comfortable as possible and to be in a position to succeed in the fall.

Granlund likes to play with the puck, and at center he will get to feel it often with the possible options of Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen being on his wings.

"It's an easy adjustment to move him back to wing if it doesn't work out," Yeo said. "But you put him at center on this team now, he should be well surrounded with speed and skill beside him. That's enticing when you have a guy like that coming through the middle of the ice with his ability to distribute the puck to either side. I think it could be a fit."

Wild fans have waited for Granlund's arrival ever since the team selected him ninth overall three drafts ago. But Granlund delayed signing a contract because he wanted to fulfill his military requirements, finish school and mature as a player.

"I just want to help the team," Granlund said. "I had a dream when I was young to play in the NHL, and now it's coming true."

Granlund was 2010 Rookie of the Year in the Finnish Elite League, led HIFK to a championship in 2011 by tying for the league scoring lead, then helped lead Finland to gold at the 2011 world championships. His lacrosse-style goal in the semifinals is captured on a postage stamp and catapulted Granlund into celebrity status.

Last season, he led HIFK in scoring, but he was sidelined by a "bad flu" the final month, lost weight, then had one practice before a disappointing showing in the world championships. But watching Granlund so far in development camp, it's clear he's back to normal.

"He looks really good," Yeo said. "You can just tell the way he thinks the game and his skill level. His ability to make plays is extremely high."

Granlund is listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, and some critics have latched on to that lack of size and wondered how effective he will be in the NHL. But he has played against men for three years in Finland, and on Thursday morning in battle drills Granlund held his own and scored goals from in tight. He also laughed off heavy-hitting 2012 first-round pick Matt Dumba's attempt to step into him across the blue line on one rush.

In Thursday night's scrimmage, Granlund showed puck sense and passing ability, especially in setting up a goal by fellow prospect Jason Zucker.

The Wild believes Granlund can make an impact immediately in the NHL, and he could give the team its first legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate since Marian Gaborik in 2000-01.

"He's a talented kid, so why not?" Flahr said. "It's been two years since his draft, he's gotten stronger and he's a talented, talented guy. We're going to have a little bit more depth, so it takes the pressure off his role and what he has to do right away.

"We're hoping he can start right, feel good and fit right in right away."

Yeo doesn't want to put too many expectations on Granlund, but he said: "We're hoping we have the kind of season where there's a number of really good stories next year. If we're going to have a great season next year, then we need more than one player to step up for us and do something special."

GRANLUND HIGHLIGHTS

• 2009-10 rookie of the year in Finnish Elite League

• 2010-11 league championship

• 2011-12 scoring title: 20 goals, 31 assists in 45 games

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Baltimore 0
Philadelphia 1 Top 5th Inning
NY Mets 0
Miami 2 Top 5th Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 0 Top 3rd Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Cleveland 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 2 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago WSox 0
Texas 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Houston 0
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 Delayed 9:55
(6) Auburn 38
(16) Clemson 21 3rd Qtr 7:01
(12) Georgia 24
Liberty 15 3rd Qtr 13:07
(23) North Carolina 21
Ohio U 14 3rd Qtr 6:41
Kent State 7
Louisiana Tech 0 2nd Qtr 11:08
(4) Oklahoma 24
Stephen F Austin 0 2nd Qtr 11:13
(20) Kansas State 21
Fresno State 0 1st Qtr 3:25
(15) USC 14
Southern Miss 0 1st Qtr 5:20
Miss State 7
Texas-El Paso 0 1st Qtr 15:00
New Mexico 0
North Texas 0 1st Qtr 13:32
Texas 0
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
Idaho 0 Delayed
Florida 0
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 1st Half 25:00
Montreal 0
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 33 3rd Qtr
Indiana 42
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close