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M&G's Top 25 Under 25: #10 - Markus Granlund

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We're into the top 10! Kicking it off is a guy on the verge of breaking into the NHL full time, Markus Granlund.

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Markus Granlund had a very interesting season. In all likelihood, he was supposed to be - should have been - Adirondack's number one centre. There was just one major interruption to that, though: almost all of the centres on the Calgary Flames got hurt, which meant a centre had to be recalled.

And who would you recall but the top centre on the team's top minor league affiliate? Granlund was the obvious choice. It was only his second season in North America, but after spending a few years in the top Finnish league, not to mention putting in an excellent rookie professional season over in the western hemisphere, the 5'11, 185 lb. centre looked like he had something to show.

His season wasn't without its ups and downs. He's the less-talented brother - Mikael Granlund is simply better - but he's definitely talented enough to play professional hockey. Now, in his final year of waiver exemption, it's time to find out whether that's going to be in the NHL, or elsewhere.

Rank Player DOB Draft 2014-15 team Vote total
10 Markus Granlund 04/16/93 45th overall, 2011 Adirondack Flames (AHL), Calgary Flames (NHL) 96

History

Granlund came up through the Finnish system alongside his older brother, posting good numbers throughout the junior leagues. After posting successful back-to-back seasons in the Jr. A SM-liiga as a 16 and 17-year-old, Granlund got his first taste of the Finnish pros just before he was drafted, being called up to the main HIFK team for two games. He also captained the Finnish U18 team, leading them in scoring throughout the year.

That was good enough to capture the Flames' attention, resulting in them drafting him with their second pick of the 2011 NHL draft.

Following his draft year, Granlund entered the professional leagues full time. He was sixth in scoring for HIFK Helsinki as an 18-year-old; all of his teammates who scored more than him were either in their 30s, or were his first round-talent brother. He was a point per game scorer in the World Juniors for Finland, helping them to a fourth place finish; and also a regular of the U20 team, and second in overall team scoring, behind only Teemu Pulkkinen and ahead of 2011 first rounder Joel Armia.

When he returned to HIFK for his draft +2 year, Granlund's scoring went down - Mikael had departed for North America, and scoring was down across the entire team. Even with the drop, Granlund was second in scoring on his team, and the only teenager to play regularly throughout the season. He helped lead the scoring for Finland in the 2013 World Juniors for the disappointing seventh place Finns, this time tied with Armia.

At 20, Granlund made the jump to North America, and spent the majority of his season with the Abbotsford Heat. He adapted pretty quickly, and ended up being one of the Heat's top players: third in scoring, behind Max Reinhart and career AHLer Ben Street. He was easily Abbotsford's most impressive player in the playoffs. Granlund also got a handful of NHL games in as an injury call up, scoring his first few points along the way.

Granlund likely should have been in Adirondack for further seasoning in his most recent season, but injuries to the big club forced his perpetual call up. He got off to a hot start in the NHL, but quickly cooled off and soon enough looked overwhelmed; things were, however, business as usual for him in the AHL.

Stats

Strengths and weaknesses

Granlund, at absolute minimum, has the tools to be a professional player. He's smart, he's creative, he can score, and he's aware defensively. He's not as good as his older brother, but he possesses many of the same qualities, with just a bit more size on his frame. This allows him to be a bit more aggressive than you'd perhaps expect, although he does a good job of keeping his penalty minutes down.

In short, he's a smart player, and it's easy for his teammates to read off of him, allowing him to shift through the lineup with relative ease.

Granlund has just a few problems holding him back. He looked overwhelmed at times in the NHL this past season, something that will hopefully be fixed with more experience. He is a little small compared to the rest of the league, but again, experience and growth will ensure that's not a long-term issue. He's been a poor faceoff man in the NHL, and due to the Flames' depth at centre, may have to convert to the wing in order to stick with the main club.

He's also simply not elite. Granlund does a lot of things well, but he just doesn't perform at an exceptionally high level.

Future with the Flames

Granlund needs to find his place on the roster. Is he going to be a top six scorer, or is he more suited to a third line game? He hasn't yet established himself as an NHLer, but that may be just around the corner. Either way, as it stands right now, he projects to be a useful player, and at minimum, a decent call up: the way he spent most of his past season. He has one more year of waiver exemption before he'll really have to prove himself, so the clock is starting to tick on Granlund's future with the Flames: but he's certainly capable of making a case for himself.

Expectations for 2015-16

In all likelihood, Granlund will be starting his season in Stockton, and won't join the Flames until absolutely necessary. If he plays in the NHL, at minimum, he needs to hold down the fort, but some more consistent scoring would be appreciated, as well.

As for his anticipated performance in Stockton, Granlund absolutely has to be one of their top players and leaders. That's the role he played when first entering the AHL, and a role that got disrupted by NHL injuries in 2014-15. If he could play that well when first entering the league, though, you have to think he can do it again: and now, he should be even better.

Earlier on the list

#25Ryan Culkin // #24Hunter Smith // #23 - Pavel Karnaukhov // #22Garnet Hathaway // #21Kenny Agostino// #20Mark Jankowski // #19Bill Arnold // #18Kenney Morrison // #17 - Andrew Mangiapane // T-#14 Mason McDonald // T-#14Brandon Hickey // T-#14 - Rasmus Andersson // #13Tyler Wotherspoon // #12 - Oliver Kylington // #11 - Morgan Klimchuk