Prior to the World Championship this spring, I read an article about the decline of European players in the NHL. This decline was also specific to the country of Finland. It is a rather saddening statistic when you think of the great Finns that we have been blessed with, especially Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri. If the numbers continue to decline, we could miss out on a legend like Teemu. It’s true that talent is talent and it shouldn’t necessarily matter what country a player comes from if he is a very skilled players, but after Europeans came such a long way to be accepted in the NHL, you’d hate to see the numbers go backwards so drastically.
There is, however, hope for Finland on the way.
Possibly the best player not in the NHL right now is set to make his debut for the Minnesota Wild this fall. That player is 2010 first round draft pick, Mikael Granlund.
Hockey fans in North America would be most familiar with him as the guy that had the lacrosse goal in the 2011 Worlds. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXtKtJggXVQ&feature=related
Many people think that the anticipated revival in Minnesota this year is going to be because of the Parise and Suter signings, but if you happened to see anything about their rookie camp last week, you would know that Granlund is on the minds of Wild fans.
Unfortunately, league wide there has been no hype for Granlund this summer. We are just going to have to wait for him to dazzle in the fall.
The exciting thing is that not only are we lucky enough to see number 64 in the NHL, but he could likely change the future for Finns in the NHL. Even younger Finns are going to be watching him play. They are going to aspire to be him and aspire to be in the NHL just like him. That’s very good for the league. It may only be a personal theory, but it’s a good one.
Last week we learned that Teemu Selanne will indeed be lacing up the skates for another NHL season. We are going to have a Finnish legend and a future Finnish legend playing in the same season.
It can also be said that the Parise and Suter signings were the perfect thing for Granlund. As many writers have said, the signings are causing him to be a player under the radar. But the signings should also mean some national exposure for the Wild finally. They are team that is often scoffed at for being boring, but that stereotype is already gone. National exposure for the Wild means exposure for Granlund so that fans across the US can see what fans in Minnesota and Finland know and love.
The NHL needs Mikael Granlund. Finland needs Mikael Granlund. And this fall we are going to get what is perfect for both circuits.