Homeland has Wild rookie Granlund well-covered

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 21, 2013 - 7:12 AM
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Mikael Granlund and Colorado's Ryan Wilson battled for possession.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Three Finnish TV stations, two newspapers and about a dozen Finnish reporters have infiltrated Minnesota. They have been here a week, will spend the upcoming week here and attended the Wild's home opener Saturday night.

And it had nothing to do with goaltender Niklas Backstrom, nor captain Mikko Koivu.

"It's good that Mikko is here, but you know, Granlund is so big in Finland," said Heikki Miettinen, a hockey writer for the biggest daily newspaper in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat, since 1985.

Granlund is Mikael Granlund, the 2010 first-round pick who made his NHL debut against the Colorado Avalanche. Granlund, 20, reached rock star status in Helsinki when he became the teenage No. 1 center of HIFK, won an SM-liiga Rookie of the Year award, led his club to a league championship and scored a lacrosse-style goal in the 2011 world championships semifinals.

"Did you see the stamp?" Miettinen asked, referring to that goal that was captured on a postage stamp. "Granlund is the hottest player right now, absolutely. There is some kind of mania in Finland."

So much mania in fact that Samuel Savolainen, a hockey writer for the magazine Urheilulehti, has moved to St. Paul to cover Granlund and the Wild full-time. Saturday's game was televised live on Nelonen Sport Pro at 4 a.m. Finland time, and Finns who got up early enough saw him score his first goal in the second period, giving the Wild a 2-1 lead.

Granlund is followed by paparazzi back home, so this is nothing.

"I am used to that," he said. "It never bothers me at all. It's part of playing hockey there."

But Granlund is especially popular, Miettinen explained, because "we have a lack of big prospects the last couple years. We haven't had promising young players like Sweden do, like [Gabriel] Landeskog, [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson, [Erik] Karlsson, Victor Hedman. They have very many good players and we haven't in [recent] years."

Miettinen believes Granlund will be a star for a Wild, but he hopes fans and the media have patience.

"It doesn't happen maybe today or tomorrow. It takes some time," Miettinen said. "He's so skillful, so intelligent, I think he can make it here."

Moving the farm?

With the Wild's lease at the Toyota Center for the Houston Aeros set to expire after this season, the Wild may have to look for a new market for its American Hockey League affiliate.

Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka said the Wild would prefer to stay in Houston (where it has been since 2001-02), but discussions are ongoing and must "come to some conclusion in the next month or so."

"There's a long history in Houston, so it would be easier and better to be able to stay put," Majka said. "But we'll see how the negotiations go."

Des Moines is one rumored market if the Wild leaves, but Majka said, "I'm not going to comment on other markets. We're talking to Houston."

Etc.

• Patrick Bordeleau, a minor league tough guy, made his NHL debut against the Wild because former Wild forward Chuck Kobasew was sick. Bordeleau, 26, was actually drafted 114th overall by the Wild in 2004. "I guess it comes full circle for me here," Bordeleau said.

• Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert (groin) was able to play, so rookie Matt Dumba didn't make his NHL debut. Left winger Matt Kassian was also scratched for the Wild.

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