The Minnesota Wild's top prospect, the next Finnish superstar, some call him the best prospect outside North America, and some even dubbed him "Finnish Baby Jesus"
I am talking about Mikael Granlund.
I don't want to say we are sick and tired of hearing how great he is and can be, but its stuff that has been written over and over again that it is no longer news. After awhile, it just becomes regurgitated information.
So, a more interesting take? Why Mikael Granlund WILL fail. Is our expectations for him overblown or will he be offensive savior for years to come?
According to the almighty Bryan (and a bit of an ass), Granlund will fail because
1. Because he plays for the Wild
2. Because he plays for the Wild
3. Because the stat geeks say so (I don't think they actually do)
Granlund is S-M-A-L-L
Admit it, when Mikael Granlund was first selected by the Wild in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, your first thought was "he's small".
After years of seeing Pierre-Marc Bouchard play spin-o-rama unnecessarily and watching Marian Gaborik getting injury after injury, seeing the new Wild regime select an undersized forward scared us.
Granlund is only 5-10 and last season, there were only five players at 5-10 or shorter that scored 50 points or more. Those names were Jiri Hudler, Ray Whitney, Brad Marchand, Martin St.Louis, and David Desharnais. Tyler Ennis could also fall into this conversation, scoring 34 points in 48 games.
While all of these players are quite solid, only Martin St.Louis could fall under the category of "franchise" player, although Ennis has age on his side.
It could be argued that if he grew an extra inch, he would be in much better company amongst Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, but for the sake of argument, Granlund is what he is, otherwise you could say the same thing to all the undersized forwards that didn't make it because they were small.
You could argue that Granlund is strong on his skates and has a decent muscle mass to endure any physical challenges that may arise. But tell that to the 6-4 225lbs opposing defenseman that is looking to welcome Granlund into the league.
Granlund is tiny compared to the majority of the NHL. That is a fact.
European rinks are B-I-G
The ice rinks over in Finland are bigger than the ones you would find in North America. As an undersized, playmaker, that large rink works to your advantage. You are less physically worn down by the grind of physical play, and you have more time and space to set up the offense.
Now what happens when you make physical play a bigger factor? Can the undersized Granlund handle the rigors?
And what happens when you take away the extra space? Will Granlund be able to handle creating plays in tighter areas and under a faster pace?
All questions that can't be answered until the season starts, either in the NHL or AHL.
He ain't speedy
Now, this isn't something that will break Granlund, but may just be something that separates Granlund from being a great player.
Many people expect undersized players to be these speedy, dynamic forwards that are constant offensive threats. Granlund has all of these, besides the speed.
So once the play is in the offensive zone, Granlund will shine. But what about on the rush? Granlund lacks the speed and pure strength to really push the defense back. He will have to rely on his hockey intelligence and playmaking abilities to do so, but is it enough?
I think there is little doubt that Granlund will make the NHL. He has a decent build for his height, world-class vision and playmaking skills, and has a great on and off ice character.
But the main question is: "Is Granlund the Finnish Baby Jesus, or is he our Saku Koivu?"
There is nothing wrong with being compared to a very good player like Saku, but that is farcry to what is being hyped as the Minnesota Wild's savior.
Because if he isn't our savior, and becomes more of a complimentary offense type of player, who needs good linemates to put up NHL leading points, the Wild need to get some goal-scorers, something this team has lacked since Marian Gaborik. Heatley has been doing fine, but one guy isn't enough.
The only thing we can do is wait, because all of this depends on Granlund's ability to adjust to the North American style of play, and adapt his hockey IQ to suit his environment.
Or, we can just end this conversation and say Granlund will fail because he is a Wild player. It's quite simple.