Mikael Granlund’s little brother takes a small step back in our rankings this year, moving from 9th to 11th. After his draft+1 season our praise for Markus was fairly effusive, mostly because he was the second highest scoring teen in the SM-Liiga after his older brother. That’s nice company to keep.
The biggest question with Granlund heading into this season was how he would fare without older bro Mikael around (he made the jump to the AHL/NHL) and the results from this past year were…somewhat ambiguous but not terribly encouraging. After scoring 15 goals and 34 points in 47 games for HIFK last year (0.72 PPG) he fell back to just 10 goals and 30 points in 50 games this year (0.6 PPG).
That’s not a terribly big difference, but one of the key, indicative arrows for prospects is whether they meaningfully improve and develop as they age. Running in place or taking a step back in subsequent years sometimes indicates a guy has already peaked or that his prior results were dependent on idiosyncratic circumstances.
All that said, Granlund’s underwhelming season in Finland was punctuated by an outstanding World Junior Championships where he finished as one of the tournaments leading scorers (5g-7a-12pts in 6 games). Only Canada’s Ryan Nugent Hopkins scored more (15 points in 6 games). Of course, one should never get too excited about point totals in very small sample tournaments like the WJC since weird things can happen in only a few games, but it’s worth noting that Granlund nevertheless excelled against some of the best players of his age in the world.
In terms of skills, Granlund is a smallish center/winger who tends to pass more than shoot. His vision and playmaking are usually listed as strengths whereas his size, defensive game and strength are his most obvious obstacles. His production from this past season translates roughly to an NHLE of 27, which falls outside where you’d expect to see future scorers in their draft+2 year. Typically you want to see potential top-6 guys managing a 35+ NHLE at this point in their development.
Granlund is one of the better offensive prospects in the Flames system currently, but he will need to start scoring at a greater pace if he is to seriously contend for a spot on the team a few years down the road. Markus isn’t built to play a checking or grinding role, so his ticket to the show will be punched with goals and assists, or else he’ll probably wash out completely.
Next season we’ll see if his step back this year was a blip or if Markus really was riding his brother’s coattails during his noteworthy rookie season in Helsinki.