4th Line Granlund: What To Do? (Prospect Update 20/02/13)

Martin Rose

An interesting thought came up during some heated discussions: what do we do with Granlund?

The skills is there, we all see it. Some great vision, good stick skills, thinks quickly. But Granlund is still adjusting to the North American style of play, which means smaller spaces and more physical play.

He started the season playing as the team's second line center. But when the team struggled to find offensive output from its lines the second, third, and fourth lines, Head Coach Mike Yeo had to change things up.

After a bit of tickering, Mikael Granlund now finds himself on the fourth line.

And with years for experience seeing what playing fourth line minutes can do to prospects (see Colton Gillies and James Sheppard), we have to be cautious.

But Granlund's case is special. In the Gillies and Sheppard cases, they seemed to never improve playing the fourth line, meaning they should have been sent down to develop their skills. But Granlund seems to improving every game, no matter where he plays.

And with Jason Zucker's spectacular play last game on the 2nd line, there is no room for Granlund at this current time. So the dilemma stands, do we keep him playing 8 minutes a night in the NHL where he still shows improvement or do we send him down the the AHL to play 20+ minutes a night but against lower tier talent?

Keep Him Up In The NHL

Granlund's main struggle isn't skills. Unlike many prospects who need time in the AHL to develop further, Granlund is already a top notch prospect.

What he lacks however is the ability to keep his feet moving to avoid getting caught by defensemen, to learn to attack the offensive zone with energy, and to reach quicker to the smaller spaces.

Does any of this really require the AHL? Playing fourth line minutes will cure these problems with no problems.

In fact, sending him down to the AHL might be counterproductive as it will force Granlund to be accustomed to a slightly slower pace and a slightly less talented opponents.

Perhaps what he needs isn't 20+minutes a night, but 10 minutes a night playing against some of the meanest and most talented checkers in the NHL.

Because he has first line skill, what he needs is experience playing against a tougher crowd, and there isn't much tougher competition than a 3rd-4th line of an NHL team.

Send Him Down To The AHL

Have we not learned from the Gillies and Sheppard experiments? If they aren't ready, they aren't ready. Top line prospects should not be rotting playing less than 10 minutes a night.

Yes, the AHL is a tier-lower than the NHL, but the leagues still have similarities in playing style. There is also alot of NHL talented players in the AHL.

And as much as we want him to be in the NHL, wouldn't it be good for his development to play as the Aero's powerplay quaterback as well as the team's top center, playing 20+ minutes a night against the toughest defense the AHL has to offer?

If we are assuming the newfound energy that the Wild's second line had something to do with Jason Zucker's speed and tenacity, it would be safe to assume that it will take a poor game or two by this line for Granlund to be able to get back into the Wild's top six.

However, if that doesn't happen, the AHL will give him all the training he needs to get accustomed to the smaller rink.

Conclusion

I honestly don't think it will hurt with either decision, that is how much confidence I have in Granlund.

I trust that he will continue working hard and to fix his weaknesses whether he is playing 15 minutes a night, or is benched eating popcorn.

As long as he continues to progress, that is the most important thing.

There is no right or wrong answer. Developing a player is more art than science. Each player is a different case, so we just have to find the sweat spot. If the best place for him to develop is playing 4th line minutes with Rupp, learning to play against the rumble and tumble of the NHL, so be it. If it means being sent down to the AHL and leading the league, thats fine as well.

Because not only do I have confidence in Granlund, I have confidence is Jason Zucker.

I felt that Zucker made that 2nd line an actually threat last game, and if continues to do so, the Wild will finally have more than one line that can score.

Meaning, not everything is being relied on Granlund. And that is the way it should be for most young, developing talented. Patience and time.

So ... what are your thoughts?

Prospect Update

NHL

Pos Age Ht Wt Team GP G A P PIM +/- PPG SHG S
Mikael Granlund C/W 20 5.10 180 Minnesota Wild (NHL) 14 1 5 6 4 -2 0 0 18
Houston Aeros (AHL) 21 8 13 21 8 -4 4 0 40
Jonas Brodin D 19 6.01 166 Minnesota Wild (NHL) 12 0 3 3 2 -1 0 0 15
Houston Aeros (AHL) 9 2 2 4 4 2 0 0 13
Jason Zucker LW 21 5.11 180 Minnesota Wild (NHL) 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 2
Houston Aeros (AHL) 47 19 22 41 43 -8 10 1 175
Johan Larsson C/LW 20 5.10 200 Minnesota Wild (NHL) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Houston Aeros (AHL) 50 13 14 27 24 1 5 1 66

Minor League

Pos Age Ht Wt Team GP G A P PIM +/- PPG SHG S
Justin Fontaine RW 25 5.10 160 Houston Aeros (AHL) 37 11 20 31 6 8 4 0 75
Charlie Coyle RW/C 20 6.02 205 Houston Aeros (AHL) 47 14 11 25 22 -8 5 0 70
Minnesota Wild (NHL) 5 0 0 0 2 -1 0 0 6
David McIntyre LW/C 26 6.00 190 Houston Aeros (AHL) 52 11 12 23 28 17 0 0 112
Chay Genoway D 26 5.09 177 Houston Aeros (AHL) 50 4 14 18 37 11 2 0 69
Zack Phillips C/RW 20 6.00 175 Houston Aeros (AHL) 48 2 12 14 6 -13 0 0 76
Kris Foucault LW 22 6.01 202 Houston Aeros (AHL) 26 5 6 11 2 -7 3 0 37
Marco Scandella D 22 6.02 190 Houston Aeros (AHL) 27 1 10 11 17 1 0 0 63
Minnesota Wild (NHL) 6 1 0 1 4 -1 0 0 7
Steven Kampfer D 24 5.11 197 Houston Aeros (AHL) 32 0 10 10 18 -8 0 0 71
Jarod Palmer RW 27 6.00 200 Houston Aeros (AHL) 17 2 6 8 26 6 0 0 19
Chad Rau C 26 5.11 175 Houston Aeros (AHL) 38 7 3 10 4 2 0 0 35
Tyler Cuma D 23 6.02 180 Houston Aeros (AHL) 33 1 7 8 14 -5 0 0 32
Carson McMillan RW/C 24 6.01 200 Houston Aeros (AHL) 41 6 5 11 19 8 0 3 53
Joel Broda LW/C 23 6.00 196 Houston Aeros (AHL) 28 2 2 4 22 -5 0 0 45
Brett Bulmer RW 20 6.03 185 Houston Aeros (AHL) 29 2 2 4 35 -12 0 0 42
Kyle Medvec D 24 6.05 191 Houston Aeros (AHL) 30 4 1 5 21 2 0 0 35
Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) 12 3 4 7 16 2 0 0 27
Josh Caron D 22 6.02 215 Houston Aeros (AHL) 11 0 0 0 7 -1 0 0 0
Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) 25 1 1 2 41 -4 0 0 12

Canadian Junior Leagues

Pos Age Height Weight Team GP G A P PIM +/- PPG SHG Shots
Raphael Bussieres LW 19 6.01 195 Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) 51 24 34 58 30 21 6 0 171
Tyler Graovac C 19 6.03 179 Belleville Bulls (OHL) 17 10 10 20 10 18 3 0 -
Ottawa 67s (OHL) 30 21 14 35 8 -16 5 2 -
Matt Dumba D 18 6.00 183 Red Deer Rebels (WHL) 51 13 20 33 63 3 4 1 -
Colton Jobke D 20 6.00 175 Regina Pats (WHL) 25 2 14 16 48 -1 0 0 -

USA/BCHL

Pos Age Height Weight Team GP G A P PIM +/- PPG SHG Shots
Adam Gilmour RW 19 6.02 193 Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) 48 17 21 38 10 19 4 0 128
Erik Haula C/LW 21 5.11 170 U of Minnesota (WCHA) 27 13 24 37 8 10 3 0 106
Louis Nanne LW 18 5.10 162 Penticton Vees (BCHL) 40 17 20 37 16 - 4 0 -
Mario Lucia LW 19 6.02 187 Notre Dame (CCHA) 23 10 9 19 10 -2 4 0 46
Nick Seeler D 19 6.00 170 U of Nebraska Omaha (WCHA) 28 2 6 8 49 6 1 0 36
John Draeger D 19 6.02 186 Michigan State (CCHA) 32 1 5 6 16 9 1 0 50
Anthony Hamburg RW 21 6.01 185 Rochester Inst. of Tech (AHA) 25 3 7 10 12 0 0 0

European

Pos Age Height Weight Team GP G A P PIM +/- PPG SHG Hits
Cody Almond C/LW 23 6.02 199 Geneve-Servette (NLA) 36 8 19 27 52 3
Daniel Gunnarsson D 20 6.04 191 Lulea (Elitserien) 48 6 8 14 14 6 3 0 9
Christoph Bertschy C 18 5.10 170 Bern (NLA) 38 3 2 5 16 2
Bern U20 (Elit Jr) 2 2 1 3 2
Bjorn Krupp D 21 6.02 189 Kolner Haie (DEL) 33 1 7 8 16 7

Goaltenders

Age Height Weight Team League GP Min GA SO GAA W L SOL/T SA Svs Sv%
Darcy Kuemper G 22 6.04 195 Minnesota Wild NHL 2 119 4 0 2.02 1 1 0 61 57 0.934
Houston Aeros AHL 16 940 28 4 1.79 10 6 0 448 420 0.938
Orlando Solar Bears ECHL 3 184 8 0 2.61 0 2 1 113 105 0.929
Matt Hackett G 22 6.02 170 Houston Aeros AHL 38 2275 98 0 2.59 17 17 3 1075 977 0.909
Johan Gustafsson G 20 6.02 202 Lulea Elitserien 29 51 3 1.73 17 12 0 728 677 0.930
Stephen Michalek G 19 6.02 196 Cedar Rapids USHL 17 992 51 0 3.09 7 6 3 508.9 458 0.9
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