I’ve been openly skeptical about Markus Granlund as a prospect for a couple of seasons now. He’s had superficially good runs in the show a couple of times, but they were often artificially goosed by transient percentages spikes. Otherwise, the kid has typically struggled at fundamental areas of the game (as kids are wont to do). There’s no question Granlund has NHL-level hands and can think the game well, but his lacklustre speed and strength always seemed to be an impediment.
This year, though, Granlund looks like he may have taken a real step forward. We’re only talking about a small handful of games, but he seems to be far better at keeping pace and executing all over the ice. He may only have one goal in five games, but there are indications that Granlund might be ready for full time duty.
The Boyd Line
Making the leap from the AHL to the NHL is often conceptualized as a single step, but the truth is there is a very large gap between the two leagues. To the degree that a lot of very good AHLers struggle to make it as NHLers, even as depth options.
I call this the “Boyd line” after former Flames prospect Dustin Boyd. I was a big fan of the player for years. He always put up better than average points in the AHL, frequently looked like one of the better players on the ice during prospect tournaments and usually stood out during the pre-season. I was sure he was going to become a quality NHLer.
But he never did. For whatever reason, Boyd just couldn’t make it over that final hurdle and put it all together in the show.
That’s the Boyd line. And it’s usually the last step a prospect has to take before becoming a regular. The Boyd line is usually only applicable to guys who aren’t role players, i.e. skaters expected to be more than fighters or crash and bangers (for obvious reasons). The last Flames prospect to trip over the Boyd line? Roman Horak.
Granlund has battled to get over the Boyd line for the last 2 seasons. He’s been one the farm team’s best players, had brief strong performances in the big league, but has more or less looked like a tweener more often than not.
The Green Arrows
Granlund’s problem up until now was that he bled chances and shots against whenever he was on the ice. It didn’t matter too much who he played with or in what circumstances, the ice tilted in the wrong direction when he was out there.
In both of his previous seasons, Granlund was a -4.0% relative corsi player. In terms of absolute rates, he was down around 45% (2013-14) and 41% (2014-15). So he was bad relative to the rest of the league and his own teammates. Again, this happens with a lot of kids as they try to find their legs.
This year, Granlund’s underlying numbers are much better. His relative corsi is +8.4% and his absolute rate is well in the black (59.3%). These are astoundingly good numbers, but take them with a large helping of salt – he has only seen five games of action, after all. There’s no chance he’s this good a possession player in reality, so expect to see some regression if he sticks around.
That said, this is probably the best five game stretch we’ve seen from Granlund in the NHL. Here’s how his shot attempt differential looks like over the course of his brief NHL career (via War on Ice):
That’s nice, big spike in 2015 isn’t it? Even if Granlund’s results fall down a bit, there’s clear improvement over his previous efforts.
Five games is a very small number to base anything on. We’re not talking about definitive evidence here, only encouraging signs that suggest the kid should get a longer look in the show. We’ll know a lot more once he gets some at bats, so here’s hoping he can stick around.