This week the Journey looks at three prospects from Finland and their very different paths to this point…
In recent history, there have been a number of terrific Finnish prospects taken at varying points in the NHL Entry Draft. Mikael Granlund, Tuukka Rask, Olli Maatta, and Sami Vatanen are just a few individuals who have turned into productive players in the NHL. And, they each seem to bring a different skill set to their respective NHL clubs. This summer's NHL Entry Draft features another highly touted Finnish prospect in Kasperi Kapanen, son of Sami Kapanen.
No matter their hype or abilities, it's always interesting to watch these prospects develop. Is the player going to spend a few seasons in the AHL before making an impact in the big league? Did he already make the transition to North American ice? Is it better to let him play overseas for another year?
In this episode of The Journey, we will take a look at the development of three Finish prospects that appear in Dobber's Top 100: Markus Granlund (#69), Joel Armia (#91), and Erik Haula (#49).
Drafted in 2011 by the Calgary Flames – 45th overall
Finished his first season with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL
Path to the NHL: Like most Finns, Granlund grew up playing for the Jr. C, B, and A leagues at the age of 14. In each of his two years with all three leagues, he put up a point-per-game, at the very least. At 16, he caught international attention where he tallied seven points in six games for Finland's U16 team. Granlund built upon his international totals just about every year before tearing up the WJC-18 tournament, where he amassed ten points in six games. His production paid off as the Flames snagged the forward in the following summer. Granlund then spent two more seasons in Finland, playing in the country's top hockey league, Liiga. Although not a point-per-game producer in the more difficult league, he still produced with 34 points in 47 games (2011-2012), then 30 points in 50 games (2012-2013). Last season, Granlund got his first taste of professional hockey in North America, in both the AHL and NHL. He played in 52 games for the Abbotsford Heat and put up 25 goals and 21 assists. He continued this production into the AHL playoffs, where he recorded two goals and three assists in four games. He was called up by the Flames for seven games as well. He contributed nicely with two goals and an assist.
Next season: If Granlund isn't on the starting roster for the Flames in 2014-2015, it's likely he'll make the jump partway through the season.
Abilities: Granlund's skills with the puck make up for his small frame (5-11, 185). He's a hard worker with tremendous puck-handling skills. Like his brother, Mikael Granlund, Markus has the playmaking abilities and confidence to be a mainstay in the NHL.
Drafted in 2011 by the Buffalo Sabres – 16th overall
Finished his first season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL