A new Finnish foward joins the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The last time the Penguins acquired a Finnish-born forward in a trade from the Nashville Predators they won two Stanley Cups in short order after adding Patric Hornqvist in 2014 going on to win back-to-back Cups just afterwards in 2016 & 2017. The team's attempting to recreate that success with the addition of a new Finn in 2023.
Mikael Granlund was born on February 26, 1992, in Oulu, Finland. Granlund is well-known on the international hockey scene, having played for several NHL teams and in multiple tournaments for Finland's national program.
Growing up in a hockey-loving family including brother Markus, another former NHL player, Granlund began playing at a young age and quickly demonstrated a natural aptitude for the sport. He played for various youth teams in Finland including the highly regarded Oulun Karpat. After a contract dispute with Karpat that caused the two sides to part ways, Granlund joined the senior team of HIFK Helsinki playing at the age of 17. In his first season with Helsinki, while playing in the SM-liiga, Granlund recorded an impressive 40 points in 43 games, showcasing his playmaking abilities and hockey IQ.
In 2009, Granlund made his debut for the Finnish national team and went on to become a key player for his nation in international competitions. He helped Finland win the bronze medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships, where he led Finland in scoring and the overall tournament in assists. He also played in the 2014 Winter Olympics where he won a bronze medal and in the 2011 and 2022 IIHF World Championships where Team Finland captured gold. His international trophy case is well stocked.
In 2010, Granlund was selected ninth overall by the Minnesota Wild in the NHL Entry Draft. He came into his draft year as the top-ranked European skater. He made his NHL debut a few years afterward in the 2012-13 season and established himself as one of the Wild's top young forwards. In 2016-17, Granlund had a breakout year, recording 69 points in 81 games and earning a spot in the NHL All-Star Game. During his time in Minnesota Granlund played on a line with current Penguin Jason Zucker establishing a highly successful partnership. It's on that line that Granlund ultimately produced his career-best year: scoring 26 goals, 43 assists, and 69 points in 81 games in 2016-17.
“Throughout his career, Granlund has been noted for his speed, vision, and ability to make plays in tight spaces. He is known for his creativity on the ice, his intelligent playmaking, and his propensity for challenging opposing teams with his well-rounded game.”
After spending six seasons with Minnesota, Granlund was traded to the Nashville Predators in 2019 in exchange for young forward Kevin Fiala. His scoring dropped in his first two seasons with the Predators but Granlund rebounded to produce a career-high 53 assists for the team in 2021-22.
As Nashville transitioned the direction of its franchise towards the future in 2022-23 they began to off-load established talents which brought Mikael Granlund to the market just as the Penguins were looking to bolster their bottom six forwards during the 2023 trade deadline. Pittsburgh secured him from the Predators on March 1st in exchange for a 2023 second-round draft pick.
Throughout his career, Granlund has been noted for his speed, vision, and ability to make plays in tight spaces. His game involves utilizing creativity on the ice and he's a challenge for opposing teams with his well-rounded play.
The Pens are surely hoping to use these varied playing experiences and multi-dimensional talents to further their post-season ambitions.