Forget Harry Potter. There’s a better premiere taking place at Xcel Energy Center this weekend when Wild fans get their first glimpse of 2010 first round pick and puck wizard, Mikael Granlund
. Actually, it will be their first in-person
glimpse, because it’s likely that every one of them has seen his jaw-dropping goal
at the World Championships earlier this summer.
On Saturday and Sunday, Granlund will be on display during the Wild’s Development Camp scrimmages at Xcel Energy Center. The prospects sneak peak is open and free to the public.
If fans weren’t already clamoring to see Granlund in a Wild sweater, the ninth-overall pick scored a highlight-reel lacrosse-style goal this May at the World Championships for Team Finland, who ultimately won the tournament.
The goal went viral on Wild TV, blogs and TVs worldwide. But Granlund almost bristles at the mention of the medal. For him, it's more important to talk about team success. And for us, he'll bring a lot more to the Wild than just the ability to scoop the puck up and flick it under the cross bar.
“There was so much talk about that goal and everyone forgot we just won a World Championship,” said Granlund, the tournament’s third-highest leading scorer with nine points (two goals, seven assists) in nine games. “That’s a bigger deal than one goal. It was just one goal.”
That may be, but when a fan base sees their top prospect pull off a move like that, there’s going to be some excitement for those moves to translate to the NHL game. That’s going to have to wait for another year.
The 19-year-old has decided to stay in Finland for one more season, where he will continue playing for HIFK of the Finnish SM-Liiga while taking care of a few off-ice commitments.
The 5-10, 180-pound forward wants to complete his final year of high school and fulfill his mandatory military service, which Wild captain Mikko Koivu
is currently working on. Granlund has occasionally talked to Koivu, who also captained Team Finland during the World Championships.
“The Wild is lucky to have him here. He’s a big leader and a great player,” Granlund said of Koivu, who played four seasons in the SM-Liiga before coming to North America.
Granlund will continue to develop and great stronger in Finland, which Wild Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr called a very skilled and physical hockey league.
“It’s a grind, and at the same time, he’s playing with good players,” Flahr said. “He’ll be pushed and he’ll get better. He’ll have the time to work on his game and get a little stronger and hopefully be ready for the grind of the NHL.
“He wants to have an impact and be a good player, not just a player,” Flahr said.
The left-handed playmaker brings both talent and intangibles the Wild are looking for, and the work ethic needed for a rising star. After the first day of skating at Development Camp, Granlund was the last player to leave the rink.
“He’s a very hard working player on the ice and very intelligent and very skilled, so he’ll hopefully be a fan favorite here for the future,” Flahr said.
With General Manager Chuck Fletcher’s recent acquisitions of high-scoring forwards Devin Setoguchi
and Dany Heatley
, fans are not the only ones excited about the Minnesota Wild’s recent facelift. Granlund said he’s been following the trades and can feel the excitement.
“This is a great place and I want to be a part of this organization some day,” Granlund said. “It’s great to be here in camp. We’ll see what happens.”
The 2011 Development Camp’s two scrimmages are open to the public on Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17 at Xcel Energy Center. Both scrimmages will start at 11 a.m. Gate One will open at 10:30 a.m. both days.