The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. In the tenth installment of this series, we look at winger Mikael Granlund of the HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League.
The 5’10, 180 lb Finnish center has put together a very strong season in the Finnish Elite League, putting together a line of 13-27-40 in 43 games, with an astounding 2 PIMs, which means he took just one minor penalty all year while playing as a 17-18 year old in a very difficult league. Where Granlund really cemented his spot as a first round draft pick was during this year’s World Championships, where he played for the Finland U-18 Team and the Finland National Team as a 17 year old. For the U-18 Team, Granlund was clearly above and beyond the competition, putting up a line of 4-9-13 in just six games en route to a bronze medal. Playing on the National Team in the World Championships, the one that Derek Stepan captained Team USA to Gold, Granlund had a goal and six assists in six games.
Granlund has exceptional skating and puck handling skills, which make him one of the premier playmakers available in the draft. His vision on the ice is tremendous, and some of the passes he dishes out makes some older, and larger, players wonder how he does it. While not a pure goal scorer, Granlund does possess a good wrist shot, and is fully capable of putting the puck in the back of the net when he needs to. He also possesses some great agility, which helps him deke around opposing defenders. His moves rival that of fellow Finn Teemu Pulkkinen, who ranks higher than Granlund for the time being.
The one knock on Granlund is his size, but don’t tell the small-ish forward that. Despite his small stature, Granlund plays larger than his size. He is fearless when battling for the puck and competes with great intensity every game. Granlund is a long term pick, much like the Chris Kreider pick in 2009, and will not be an impact NHL player for maybe as many as three seasons. Whichever team drafts Granlund is going to get a fantastic player, but they will have to wait for him to come over from Finland. There are few players in the draft that match Granlund’s combination of skill and speed, but his size is what may keep him out of the top-10. Granlund should still be available at #10, but the way the previous nine picks fall is what will determine where Granlund lands.