Markus Granlund never quite fit with the Calgary Flames, finding himself a mainstay in the press box at the Saddledome before being dealt to the Vancouver Canucks on February 22nd for Hunter Shinkaruk. Granlund, 23, was valued by the Canucks for his combination of skill, versatility as a winger and centre and two-way chops.
Much like the player the Canucks dealt to acquired him, Granlund came to the Lower Mainland with an impressive AHL resume recording 72 points in 85 AHL contests.
The Canucks are hoping they can unearth the talent that afforded the Finnish import such high production at the AHL level, too. Prior to joining the Canucks, Granlund’s NHL resume was light on big league production, with just 28 points to show for his 86 games of action. This season Granlund appeared in 33 games for the Flames, recording four goals and three assists in a shade over 13 minutes a game. In his 16 games as a Canuck, Granlund notched two goals and an assist, averaging 15.4 minutes a game.
Recently, Granlund signed a two-year deal worth an annual average of $900,000.
For a player of his AHL pedigree, Granlund’s point total is underwhelming. Of the 10 points, only six came at even strength. Also, Granlund finished around his career average in shooting percentage.
There are even more concerns with Granlund when it comes to his underlying numbers. Every single statistic is in the red, both individually and relative to the team. While it is a small sample size, of all Canucks forwards who played at least 10 games Granlund ranks last in CF% and SCF% and sixth worst in GF%. If you include his numbers from Calgary over the course of this season, he finishes around the same ranks.
Granlund continues to struggle as a two-way player and scorer at the NHL level. Despite flashing high-end skill in every other professional league he’s played in, that’s yet to manifest itself at the NHL level. Granlund just turned 23, though, and players typically reach their prime around 24. This is to say that Granlund is entering put up or shut up territory.
Though Granlund enters this off-season as the Canucks presumptive fourth line centre next season, behind Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat there’s certainly a case to be made that he might not be their fourth best option. One could reasonably argue that Jared McCann – assuming any amount of development over the summer – is better, and so too is Linden Vey.
His struggles in that position are well documented and Flames Nation has a good breakdown of Granlund’s struggle as a centre in the NHL before he was traded to the Canucks. In his 102 career NHL games, Granlund has only won 40.3% of the draws he has taken. He is most effective on the wing, with most of his success coming from when he was on the wing.
There is no denying that Granlund has skill. He has consistently put up points at every level he has played in except for the NHL. Granlund has a phenomenal shot and it needs to be utilized more. Also, this pass from Granlund is a thing of beauty:
The way Granlund recognized how to get the puck to a wide-open Bartkowski is a display of the skill Granlund has and why he is a prolific AHL scorer.
As it stands right now, Granlund is a replacement level player at centre. Since he requires waivers this year, it is likely he sticks with the big club this year. So why not try him on the wing?
While Benning said Granlund can play left wing, I would like to see him play the right side. The Canucks already have some solid left wingers (Daniel Sedin, Sven Baertschi, and Jake Virtanen). On the right side, there is a big hole to fill after Jannik Hansen and it might be worth giving Markus Granlund that shot.