THE 2014 FLAMES FIFTEEN – #4: MARKUS GRANLUND

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. 

 Justin  Kent  Ryan  BOL  Byron  Taylor  Christian
Granlund  6  5  3  7  7  4  5

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).

CONCLUSION

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.  

  • PrairieStew

    Didn’t he also get off to a very slow start in Abbostford last fall – like 1 or 2 points in the first 10 games or so ? Adjusting to the smaller rink a challenge for a 20 year old.

    To me this guy is very close to ready – but don’t want to see him in 4th line role.

  • BurningSensation

    I suspect that if there is a roster opening for him, it will be at RW.

    Flames are pretty stocked at C for the big roster (except a #1C), for Granlund to make a top 9 role I’m betting it’s as a starboard gunner.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      Yes, I agree and not just for the short term future either. We do have a lot of C prosepcts in the system and Backlund and Monahan keep getting better, plus there’s a very good chance we draft another C at this year’s draft. I think the long term future for Granlund is RW.

    • Skuehler

      Saw Granlund in Penticton at the tourney against the young guys from Edmonton. As I recall, he had a couple really good shifts, but looked lost on the others. That is a huge difference from the Granlund that showed up here in March.

      Before the injury bug bit him, thought he was moving his feet well and had a boatload of confidence. Good passer, anticipates well, I would expect he might get more than a couple reps as a centre in camp. As a lefty, his right wingers might have solid opportunity for pumped up goal totals. But I agree, in the short term, for him to break camp wearing a Flaming C instead of a Flaming A, his best bet today looks like as a RW.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I’m really looking forward to see how he develops. He and Sven share similar qualities, in that they seem so comfortable and poised when presented with goal scoring opportunities. Much like Monahan. They just don’t panic.

    I recall BT mentioning that goal scoring is the hardest thing to do in the NHL – I totally agree –

    If Granlund is a homerun (Sven too) the prospect of watching these kids get better is hard to not get excited about.

    BUT the forward prospects are smallish (Granlund included). I wonder how many kids BT/BB envision sticking around here.

    Are they open to being surprised at how well these guys play together or do they just have a NEED SIZE fixation?

    BT has been saying a lot of good stuff but we need some decisions on personnel to get past fluff.

    The draft and FA can’t get here quick enough !!!

  • mattyc

    So Corban Knight is either top 3 or not in top-15. He’s still 23 (until sept 10).

    I consider Monahan graduated, but am not sure I’d have Knight above Granlund, Poirier or Gillies.

    • beloch

      Markus Granlund is 21 and his NHLE was 35.4 (if you include his 5 points in 4 AHL playoff games). Corban Knight is over 3 years older than Granlund and had a NHLE of 22.6. Both of these players played 7 NHL games this season. Granlund had 2 goals and an assist, while Knight had one assist. Granlund was less sheltered but his possession was slightly better. Warning: The sample size here is very small.

      Knight has a little size on Granlund, but Granlund is clearly the better player at present. Due to his age, Granlund can be expected to develop significantly more before peaking than Knight will. I’d be pretty surprised if anyone ranked Knight above Granlund.

      Now, to be fair to Knight, this was a disappointing season for him, at least in terms of what happened to his NHLE. He put up roughly 1 ppg for three seasons straight in the WCHA. His NHLE after the 2012/2013 season was 40.2. Perhaps he was riding on linemates in college or just had a bad season, but he took a big step backwards adjusting to the AHL. He would likely have been on most people’s top-15 list a year ago. At present, he projects as a fourth liner. However, it’s not impossible that he’ll figure things out and be a tad better than that. He’ll be a player to keep an eye on next season.

    • Derzie

      under 23 on march 30 or whatever it says in the original article. he’s too old.

      like I said, that’s the only qualification. I didn’t like the arbitrary “no longer a prospect” stuff

  • Lordmork

    I went back to the original post. “We asked our panel to rank every player under 23 in the Flames system as of March 30th.” Graduated to the NHL or not, Monahan is under 23, so presumably he ranks in the top 3 along with Gaudreau and Sven. Corban Knight obviously didn’t rank, for whatever reason.

    • mattyc

      Strange – he didn’t even make the “cut off” list then either… Heck even Coda Gordon got a mention. Maybe he’s not “under 23” (read: 22 or younger?).

      Maybe he just transcends the list (and all lists).

  • cunning_linguist

    I don’t want to quibble as I don’t see much difference between Granlund and Sven but Granlund sure looked NHL ready at the end of the season and I’m not Sven was. I would expect that both of their names have come up in trade talks as they move would seem to be appealing prospects.
    I can see Granlund making the team out of camp as the teams 4th center if they roll 4 lines.(If they go three and an energy line he will need to play on the wing) He is IMO the most ready of prospects(I’m conceding that Monahan is an NHL center); ahead of Knight, Arnold and whomever they draft. Number 4 may get to start in the NHL and get his 10 games having Granlund start in the AHL. Backs and Stajan can get most of the heavy lifting early in the season but Monahan, Granlund. Knight will all need to pushed at times during the season.

    Again I could see the lineup looking something like this barring trades:

    Johnny/Backs/Bouma
    Hudler/Money/Colborne
    Sven(Byron)/Granlund/DJONEs(McG)
    Glenx/Stajan/Ferland(Wolfe)

    • mattyc

      Johnny/Backs/Bouma Hudler/Money/Colborne Sven(Byron)/Granlund/DJONEs(McG) Glenx/Stajan/Ferland(Wolfe)

      honest question: is there anyone in that lineup that is a legit top 6 fwd next season? Maybe Backlund? maybe Hudler?

      • MattyFranchise

        Interesting question!

        IMO …Flames Top6-level roster talent for a Top20 playoff bubble team:

        Top6 currently or with future potential: Monahan, Gaudreau, Hudler, Baertschi, Poirier, #4 Pick in 2014 draft

        Top9 currently or with future potential: Backlund, Glencross, Granlund, Klimchuk

        Top9 Bubble – potential Top9 prospects developing to their full potential: Knight, Reinhart, Ferland, Arnold, Agostino

        Wild Card: Jankowski

      • MattyFranchise

        Backlund for sure is a solid 2C with 1C potential. It also depends on what kind of seasons Stajan and GlenX have. Both have second line potential at this point but I think they are better suited for the third line at this stage of their careers. I’d expect Hudler to be on the second line with Monahan again all damn season although I’m not sure if that means they are legit still/yet.

        • MattyFranchise

          re Backlund…we all love his game, particularly his development the last half year.

          But IMO to be 2C he needs to reach the next production plateau, as he does not bring other intangibles eg. size, tenacity. Getting to 55-70 points puts in solid 2C territory like ROR, Turris, Bergeron, Schwartz etc.

          On a playoff level team Backlund fits nicely as a 3C, strong possession, above average defensively, drives play, complementary scoring, high defensive zone starts, high QoC..just needs to become renowned at faceoffs. If he stays at 40 points plus refines the aspects he would be a solid 3C like Stoll, Umberger, Cogliano.

          • MattyFranchise

            I may have been selling high on Backs but I’m sure he can get there. He seriously can’t spend that much time in the oppositions end without figuring out how to put points on the board. He’s got the hard part figured out, time for some finish.

          • Derzie

            Backs & Berglund had incredible chemistry overseas. Heard St Louis has him as trade bait. Do we have anything we can afford to give up to pry Berglund out of them with?

            Would Brian Campbell be a good target, 2 years left at 7.14mill cap goes a long way to hitting the floor & he would be excellent in our 3-4 spot? Probably net us a pretty decent rental return at the TDL in his last contract year.

            Would Kulikov be a target? Hudler & our 2 2nds be enough to pry him out of Florida? He wants more money than Florida will pay but he has lots of up side & probably could slot in nicely in the 3-4.

          • Burnward

            Would Brian Campbell be a good target, 2 years left at 7.14mill cap goes a long way to hitting the floor & he would be excellent in our 3-4 spot? Probably net us a pretty decent rental return at the TDL in his last contract year.

            I would support this.

          • MattyFranchise

            Probably the 3-4 defense spot is the weakest part of the back end at the moment.

            1.Gio/Brodie 2.Campbell/Kulikov 3.Wideman/Russell 4. Smid

            Assuming you can get both without selling the farm. No idea what it would take to pry them out of Florida but I think that’s a substantially improved D corps than last year.

            That would leave Wotherspoon in the minors though and I’m sure he’s earned at least some time with the big club. Not sure what to do there. Maybe get one of Cambpell/Kulikov (preferably Campbell) play Russell or Wideman in the 4th spot and slot Spooner in there somewhere.

            As for Berglund, I have no idea what the asking price would be. I like it though, play him with Backs and they’ll put up points for sure.

      • Burnward

        My response to your question is Hudler, Backs. However in saying that the purpose of rolling 4 lines is to allow all the young guys to play and develop in all situations with the veterans we do have. If this takes place some of them may be ready to be top six forwards next year.

        ie Johnny/Backs/Bouma; we know Backs is a hard working possession player who has some offensive upside playing with Johnny he will benefit form Johnny’s skill but help create situations for him and help him become defensively responsible at this level. Bouma is the grit on this line and may have more offense than we think if he plays with Johnny (right time and place)

        The Hudler/Monahan/Colborne line has chemistry from last year and needs to put in more difficult positions so that both Monhan and Colborn develop.

        Glenx/Stajan/(Ferland/Wolfe) line will creat offense and be defensively responsible and eiher Ferland or wolfe will be able to develop in all situations.

        THe last group is dependent on how both Sven/ Granlund develop and if DJONES has a bounce back year. If not others will get a chance.

        The other option to try and create two offensive lines and two other lines but that would hold back the progress that is needed this year so they can be more competitive next year.

        But these are just my opinions and I’m not sure if others can see this or not.

      • Skuehler

        agree about lack of elite skill and…unless we trade for Luongo, how are we hitting the floor with this line up?

        Granlund’s a keeper. Didn’t seem small when I saw him play. He was very solid on the puck and was a driver. I didn’t see the resemblance to Sven, but more of a Backlund type player.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Granlund impressed Troy Ward last year and ended up being one of the Heat’s top go to guys for offence. At 21 on he’s still young, but I really like what limited action he got in Calgary. It seems he has the potential to have a dangerous shot, especially since he seemed to be in good shooting areas.

    Small sample size for sure, but I’m optimistic he’s ready to crack the big team this year, if not at center then at wing.

  • mattyc

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big backlund booster, but let’s not get carried away calling him a legit 1C. He hasn’t even hit Grabovski levels yet, let alone sustained it. I think you can make a case for him and hurler to be top 6 and maybe for glencross and Stajan as middle 6ers but were a couple fwds short of a pro lineup. And this doesn’t scene address the lack of salary to reach the cap floor…

  • cunning_linguist

    We need to trade Hudler. His value is as high as it’s going to get right now, especially if we retain some salary. Hudler at $2MM gets you a 2nd rounder if not a first. Hudler at $2MM + a 2nd rounder probably gets you a decent first rounder. I just don’t see what he brings to the team atm. He’s a smallish skill forward, very complimentary player, doesn’t jump off the advanced stats page like a Backlund. He basically is just taking a LW spot from a youngster. Understand the need for veterans right now and for our kids to “earn their spot”, but good asset management would be to get a return on Hudler then fill his spot with a Hemsky, Derek Roy, Vrbata or some similar mold of player for dollars only.

    • MattyFranchise

      Hudler may indeed be someone who is traded but not to see his value to this team atm is difficult to fathom. He was the leading scorer last year, he had chemistry with Monahan and helped him both on and off the ice(he let let the kid room with him in the preseason) and it is clear he bought one of Gio’s leadership memeberships; his going out in full gear to shot hoops would have significantly lightened the mood in the dressing room and when a team is rebuilding or going through a tough period you need this kind of thing. Don’t ever underestimate the value of things that happen off the ice.

  • Derzie

    Sven in the Top 3 makes sense. His problems are ones we the fans don’t really see. Sure he is offensive minded (see the results of the Sven, Monahan, Hudler line early last season) and defense is a little lacking (as is Seans). He is on the farm for his head. This year is a big year for him. He needs to dominate camp and the AHL or it is probably curtains for his Flames tenure.