At what point does "potential" become an irrelevant term when evaluating a player?
Just kidding. Just. Kidding. Mikael Granlund is only 21, I get that, let's not panic just yet. Especially since the kid has had a decent enough training camp. But going in to this season, there are questions surrounding the 2010 first round pick.
And, like everybody else, I've talked about the massive potential this guy has. But there will be a time when all that assumed potential needs to transform into actual plays on the ice. And that time is not far away. Yes, we're talking about a 21-year-old player who is starting his second year in North America. The list of extremely talented, but small and not-that-fast players that never made it, though, is a long one.
One thing that gets thrown around quite a lot, is Granlund's "great work ethic". And while that's a good attribute to have in a player, where does that get you? You can work harder than anyone else on this planet, have the "potential" to be great, but...something's missing.
Some guys just don't get it. They can't play in the NHL, even if their skill set would suggest that they'd succeed in the league.
A guy like Jussi Jokinen is a perfect example of a guy that "gets it". He's not that great at anything, but he reads the game well, has all the necessary tools to play in the NHL, and he puts up decent numbers in the process. The complete opposite would probably be someone like Colton Gillies, a fairly familiar name for the Wild faithful. Kid's got all the tools. He's got the frame, the wheels, a decent shot, throws his weight around and he basically should be a career 3rd liner with scoring touch. But as it stands right now, Gillies probably won't ever be a regular NHLer.
All this being said, I still believe Granlund will make himself a decent career in the NHL. He just seems too good not to. That's not much of an argument for the kid, but sometimes you got to go with your gut.
As for this season, he's being put in a position in which he should succeed. And that's all Mike Yeo can do for him.
I'm not 100% sure about the PP units, but I'd imagine he gets minutes with the second group. Then, on 5-on-5, the only thing he really needs to concern himself with is the offensive side of the game. What he does with and without the puck when the Wild have it.
"But Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak...really!?". Yes, really. They're both guys that can play. This isn't nearly the equivalent of throwing him on the 4th line wing with Zenon Konopka as his center. With Brodziak on the middle as the big center that battles really hard on both ends of the ice, Granlund gets off a little bit easier. He can play the passing lanes a bit more in his own end, doesn't need to fight with bigger centers near the corners and most of the time, gets the puck higher up the ice when the Wild break out of their own zone. These are the small things that give Granlund a great chance to hit the ground running-
As for Cooke...man, he'll be huge with Granlund if everything works out the way I have it pictured in my head. Cooke has a sneaky way of getting to scoring areas, and Granlund will find him there, I have no doubt about that. Also, Cooke is great on the forecheck. That will be huge, depending on the defensive pairing that line has behind it. The Wild need to get the puck up the ice with speed, and the fastest way to get it there is to never let it leave the offensive zone.
The Wild might really have something going on with this 3rd line. The secondary scoring needs to step up their game if the Wild hope to have any chance on making it past the first round this year. Hell, if they even want to make the Play-Offs. A blazing hot Granlund wouldn't hurt, would it?
If he can't get it going, though... Well, there's that one year left in his Entry-Level Contract.