June 19 2014 01:00PM
Markus Granlund is a unicorn-like rarity in the Calgary Flames system historically. No, not a younger brother of an emerging NHL star (hey Valeri Bure). No, he's a second round pick. And after spending time with his club team, HIFK Helsinki, for a few years, he made his arrival in North America and made a splash.
Granlund comes in at #4 on our 2014 Flames 15.
In a year where the Flames prospect pool changed dramatically for the good, Granlund shot up 7 spots from last year. He leap-frogged over notable prospects like Max Reinhart and Bill Arnold as well as 2013 1st rounders Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk. He settles in just behind the “stud prospects”, as the Flames’ 4th best prospect.
Last year, Granlund sat in the 11th spot, dropping from 9th in 2012. The jury was out on Granlund at this time last year. He took a small step back last year in his draft+1 year, when older brother Mikael (who coincidentally also took a small step in his draft+1 year), left to join the Wild’s farm system in North America. His points decreased from 34 in 47 games to 30 in 50 games. It was unclear if Granlund had “maxed-out” as a prospect and was perhaps riding the coattails of his brother. His performance at the World Juniors last year (12 points in 6 games) may have been the only thing that kept the optimism high on Granlund.
The big test was going to come this year when Granlund was leaving his native Finland and coming to North America to turn pro and Granlund did not disappoint. While Granlund’s ability to learn the English language took some time, his hockey skill was able to translate to pro hockey in North America, in a big way.
Granlund amassed 46 points in 52 games, scoring at a 0.88 PPG clip, during his rookie season with the AHL Heat. Granlund ranked 13th in total rookie scoring but actually had the second best PPG ratio of all rookies that played 30 games or more. He sat behind only Ryan Strome, who is arguably the Islanders’ best prospect and saw significant time in the show this year.
Granlund was a driver on any line he was placed on. When he was on the ice and the Heat scored, 75% of the time he registered a point on the goal. Granlund’s rookie season was the single best AHL rookie season by a Flames’ draft pick since Dustin Boyd put up 60 points in 66 games with the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights in 2006-07. Before that it was Cory Stillman in 1993-94 (83 in 79) and Theo Fleury in 1988-89 (74 in 40).
This is another big year in Granlund’s development. Granlund, who turned 21 in April, will likely see a couple lengthy call-ups throughout the year. Granlund could earn himself a full-time spot on the Flames during the year if a Top 9 forward goes down with an injury. Granlund could also outshines someone in the Top 9 and force the Flames' hand. Given the talent that the Flames are adding to the pipeline (Top-5 pick, players turning pro, rapidly developing 1st rounders), if Granlund holds steady at #4 or jumps up from that #4 spot next year it will be because he has developed into a blue-chip prospect for the Flames.