Mikael Granlund spent most of his career with the Minnesota Wild, racking up between 40-70 points almost every year. After the Nashville Predators acquired him in 2018, his next couple of years were ho-hum at best.
Granlund showed flashes here and there but wasn’t producing nearly like he was with the Wild, even though his ATOI (average time on ice) was about the same with both teams.
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This year, however, has looked different. And before anyone starts yammering on about contract years and trade rumors, I’ll say this: I assume all athletes are trying to win and play their best at all times, regardless of dollar amounts.
Maybe I’m naive in doing so, but I’d like to believe that athletes play, to win, the game.
This year, Granlund looks different. Numbers-wise, he’s producing. Other than goalies and D-men, he leads the team in ATOI (yes, even more than Filip Forsberg).
Granlund has the 4th-most goals on the team, tied with Mattias Ekholm. He always seems to be fighting for the puck, making clean passes, and creating offensive opportunities for a struggling Predators team.
Could it be that he’s playing for a new contract with a new team? I suppose it’s possible. After all, it’s basically a guarantee he’ll be moved before the trade deadline. And frankly, no matter how much sense it makes, that’s truly a shame. He’s been good.
He’s a Smart Guy
One of Granlund’s best assets is his awareness. He is always making moves to be in the right place at the right time. Take the play below vs. Dallas, for example:
Of course, Viktor Arvidsson is the main focal point of the play, but watch what Granlund does in the background.
At the very beginning, Granlund is going after the puck. Once Arvidsson secures it, Granlund immediately finds positioning at the corner of the net, then hits a PERFECT redirect on Arvidsson’s shot to score.
We can find another example of Granlund’s positioning and awareness in this play against the Lightning:
Again, Granlund was not the play’s focal point, and you actually may not even really notice him unless you’re watching him specifically. But notice how he fights for a position directly in front of the net, boxing out Ryan McDonagh (who is 3″ taller and 30 lbs heavier) to secure the rebound and score.
Granlund’s Present And Future
Unfortunately, we know Granlund may not be with us for much longer. However, he has been rock solid for the Predators this year, regardless of injuries, line shifts, opponent, or strange coaching decisions.
Has Granlund been perfect? Certainly not. But he’s been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise mucky season for the Predators.
Granlund has stood a head above most other players on the roster, fighting for pucks, creating opportunities, and just being a true leader on the ice.
The Predators seem to be heading towards at least a partial rebuild, and I believe that this rebuild will only be successful if GM David Poile finds more guys like Granlund.
Granlund is never the most talented player on the ice, but he’s smart, efficient, and a true workhorse. He’s like Ekholm if he was a center: always aware, plays the position, controls the puck, and hits when he needs to.
The Predators will need more consistency from supporting players so that guys like Forsberg and Arvidsson can maximize their potential as well.
Wherever Granlund ends up, I wish him the best of luck as long as he doesn’t score against us.