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Granlund's biggest skill is making his teammates better

by Adam Kimelman
Mikael Granlund does the one thing all coaches want to see out of their players -- he makes his teammates better.

Granlund, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound center from Oulu, Finland, was a dynamic scorer in his own right during the 2009-10 season. In his first season with HIFK in the Finnish Elite League, he led all rookies with 40 points in 43 games.

Just as impressive, however, was his ability to make the players around him that much better.

"When he started, he played on a line with a guy who scored 4 goals last year," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told, "and suddenly he had 15 goals in 15 games. Then he was moved to another line and the center on that line had awful form and suddenly this center was chosen the hottest play in January in the Finnish league. The Finnish Under-18 team had a horrible season, but when Granlund joined them in April (for the World Under-18 Championship), they finished third in the tournament. He's not only an excellent hockey player himself, he makes his teammates better."

That high level of skill earned him the No. 1 spot on Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft, June 25-26 in Los Angeles.

"Saku Koivu clone," Stubb said. "He's small, but no one's told him he's small. He has a really good, winning attitude, works very hard. He's tough, and he has very good hockey sense."

He displayed some of that skill and hockey sense playing for Finland at the World Junior Championship and the World Under-18 Championship. In Saskatoon at the WJC -- one year after he had 2 goals in 6 games as the tournament's youngest player -- he had team-highs of 6 assists and 7 points as Finland finished fifth.

At April's U-18 event, he was even better, leading the tournament with 9 assists and finishing second on his team with 13 points. Most of his assists went to linemate Teemu Pulkkinen, helping him salvage an injury-plagued season with a tournament-high 10 goals.

"He's an awesome playmaker with great hockey sense," Pulkkinen said. "He can do everything on the ice, so he's a great playmaker. It's fun to play with him."

"Saku Koivu clone. He's small, but no one's told him he's small. He has a really good, winning attitude, works very hard. He's tough, and he has very good hockey sense." -- Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting

"He's a very good playmaker," a Western Conference scout told "He's a competitive, gritty kid for his size. He's undersized, not a great skater, but he makes up for it with heart and he does make a lot of nice plays."

Granlund is used to hearing questions about his size and strength, and admits it's an issue he needs to work on.

"Everything I need to work on," he told "Skating is the biggest thing. And I need to get more power."

That will come with the same sort of physical development most 18-year-olds go through as they get older. His skill-set, however, already looks finely tuned. He's likely going to need at least one more year in Finland -- Granlund said he has no interest in playing junior hockey in Canada when he can play in the top men's league in Finland -- and continue getting bigger and stronger.

When he does come to the NHL, scouts expect him to become a top-line playmaker for whatever team drafts him.

"He's going to have to be a guy that's going to have to produce," a scout from an Eastern Conference team told "He's going to have to make things happen when he's that size. He can play. Marc Savard, he has to be that type of player -- he has to make things happen."

Contact Adam Kimelman at
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