In April 2014, Michael Keranen was on a list by The Hockey News of "the best players in the world you've never heard of" after he had a dominant season in the Finnish SM-Liiga last year. But since he signed with the Wild, he is no longer a player no one knows. Lately, he's looked more like the player who scored a point per game in Finland last year, and he could be another offensive weapon in Minnesota if he can complete his adjustment to North America.
After having his first North American two point game last night, Keranen has 12 points in 17 games in Iowa. He looks like he is getting more comfortable. Whether that is because of the coaching change or building chemistry with his teammates or adjusting to the ice size, he is looking much improved this month.
I guess the Wild figure they can never have too many Finnish playmakers, because Keranen's offensive abilities are his major strength. He's great at passing and some of his stick-work looks truly fancy. When he is performing his best, his game looks flashy and fast. When he's not playing well, it shows in his own zone, where he looks confused or clumsy. He doesn't always look like he has the strenght to make the necessary defensive plays. Since he was highly regarded for his two-way play in the Finnish league, I'm hopeful that he will improve at defense as the team as a whole improves defensively.
I love the way he can shoot while at top skating speed. While he is willing to shoot, he can also find open teammates who are in a better scoring position and pass the puck to them through passing seams so small, it's hard to believe there is any room to pass. He also uses the boards to block defenders as he performs tricky stick maneuvers to keep the puck on his stick and in the offensive zone.
On this goal, scored on November 2nd versus the Oklahoma City Barons, Keranen is aggressive the whole shift. He also shows his willingness to go to the net. He has an accurate shot, and yet somehow, he manages to elude the defenders and be in the right position to score an easy goal. It can be challenging to do all the right things to produce a goal that looks so effortless and simple, but Keranen can make it look
Keranen does not yet look like he is ready for the NHL, but he could be in the not too distant future. He's another prospect that the Wild acquired through unconventional means who shows flashes of being a possible NHLer. If he does get called up, it would have to be to cover for an injury in a top-six role. He does not penalty kill, but is great on the power play.