The flash of Johnny Gaudreau and the promise of Sam Bennett took up many of the highlight reels but it was the polish and finish shown by another playerthat really stole the show in Penticton. Or perhaps…Finnish.
Markus Granlund was one of the leading scorers at the 2014 Young Stars Classic, as he netted five points (2-3-5) over two games played. He trailed only teammate and linemate Michael Ferland, who played in one more contest.
It was in fact a strong showing from the entire line of Granlund, Ferland and Josh Jooris, as the three forwards combined for 16 points (7-9-16) over the weekend. While it was certainly an impressive effort from all three players, Jooris was quick to point out his center for the line’s performances.
“I was pretty pleased to see [Granlund] as my centerman,” Jooris said. “He’s a great player, real gifted hands, he’s just a real smart guy. I’ve always been a playmaker but skating with him, it’s just finding an open area and he’s going to get you the puck. He just makes it easy.”
Granlund enters 2014-15, his second full season as a professional, with high expectations surrounding him after a strong debut one year ago. The Oulu, Finland native posted 46 points (25-21-46) in just 52 games with the Abbotsford Heat, good for third on the roster in points, second in goals.
“I played with [Granlund] in Abbotsford for a bit and he’s just such a skilled player,” Ferland said. “He’s fast and he finds you wherever you are, just a real easy guy to play with.”
The 21-year old Granlund also got his first taste of life in the NHL, as he netted three points (2-1-3) over seven games in Calgary before an injury ended his season.
“It was of course helpful,” Granlund said of getting a taste of the NHL. “Now I know that I can play in the NHL and now I just have to work hard and be ready.”
Granlund’s skill seemed to be a hot topic of conversation throughout the showcase, as the former HIFK Helsinki player seemed a man amongst boys in a prospect tournament. Having played against men overseas in his native Finland for three seasons, prior to jumping across the pond, has certainly aided in that process.
Adirondack Flames Head Coach Ryan Huska, however, was impressed in a different way with Granlund’s performance.
“Intelligence,” Huska said. “That’s the one thing that we really do see from him, he’s such a smart hockey player. There’s times where you think ‘Maybe he could be skating harder or he could do a little more’ and bang there he is in the right spot where the puck comes to. It’s his hockey sense and intelligence that are the first things you notice about him.”
It’s that combination of skill and intelligence level that makes Granlund such a special player and raises the question of how much we will see of him this season in Glens Falls, if at all. With strong forward depth at training camp in Calgary it is always a tough battle to make the main squad, but in the eyes of Huska, it should come as a surprise to no one if Granlund does crack the big club.
“Would I be surprised if I don’t end up coaching Markus Granlund?” Huska asked himself. “No.”
Regardless of where Granlund ends up starting this season, he looks well on his way to impressing. And the potential of having an NHL caliber player such as Markus Granlund in Adirondack is something that should have hockey fans in upstate New York very excited.