The Vancouver Canucks acquired centre Markus Granlund in a trade that sent one of their best forward prospects to the Calgary Flames.
Vancouver Canucks fans had been hoping for a big trade for a long time. Just maybe not this kind. Instead of shipping out a pending unrestricted free agent — aka Dan Hamhuis, Radim Vrbata or Brandon Prust — the Canucks decided to get rid of Hunter Shinkaruk, a former first-round selection and one of the organization’s top prospects. For what?
His name is Markus Granlund, he is 22 years old, born in Oulu, Finland, and can play any forward position. And, unfortunately, he is not the Minnesota Wild’s Mikael Granlund. Oh well.
The main concern fans have with shipping out Shinkaruk is that he is a natural goal scorer while Granlund might be nothing more than a third liner. To be honest, those were my thoughts as well. But are they true?
Granlund was drafted in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. In his draft+1 season, he had 15 goals and 34 points in 47 games — for HIFK of Finland’s elite league. Furthermore, he had two goals and seven points in seven games at the 2012 World Junior Championship as an 18-year-old.
He failed to improve in his second professional season and “only” recorded 10 goals and 30 points in 50 games. Still, it was enough to convince the Calgary Flames who brought Granlund over to North America for the following season.
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In the 2013-14 campaign, Granlund had 25 goals and 46 points in 52 games for the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat, as well as two goals and five points in five contests with the Flames.
Now think again: Granlund not a good scorer?
In comparison, Shinkaruk — more commonly known as the best goal scorer the Canucks have seen in a while — currently sits at 21 goals and 39 points through 45 games this season, which is Shinkaruk’s draft+3 season. The two are certainly comparable.
The difference is that Shinkaruk is still in the AHL working on his defensive game, while Granlund has been in the NHL for two years, with the defensive side of his game being one of his major strengths.
"A smart and competitive two-way forward that boasts an elite-level skill package. Tremendous hands and puck skills compliment the accurate release on his shot. Not an explosive skater, but mobile to a professional degree. Understands his game and what is expected of him, but can start to play out of his box when trying to exceed expectations. When playing with confidence, he knows his abilities and plays to their extent. Excellent passer as well as a shooter; consistently exhibits keen awareness and hockey sense. Strong defensively and can move the puck out of his zone very well due to his tendency to play the game in lanes. Game by game he works on the small things, and looks for ways to make an impact in the offensive and defensive end. He will only get better."
With Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat, Jared McCann and Granlund, the Canucks hope to be set at centre after the Sedin era that might end in 2018. Simply said, Vancouver wants enough options to choose from, in case they don’t develop the way the club is hoping. If they all turn into what they are supposed to be, one of Sutter, McCann and Granlund can move to the wing.
It seems fair to say that Granlund has the potential to be a strong second-line centre with a lot of skill and a good shot. However, he could also end up being nothing more than a bottom-six forward who struggles to produce at the NHL level. So far, Granlund has 14 goals and 28 points in 82 career NHL contests.
The trade came at a curious time because the Canucks will never get the chance to find out what Shinkaruk can do at the NHL level. After losing too many games in 2016, their playoff chances are more than slim, and Granlund alone is probably not enough to change that.
General manager Jim Benning noted that Granlund was “the best we could get” while they had actually been looking for a defenceman. Why not wait until the draft to trade Shinkaruk? Why rush into this? Why trade for another centre when you are looking for a D-man?
Many questions with no answers.
Benning and the Canucks want to make the playoffs. Trading Shinkaruk for Granlund in order to achieve that goal is a testament to Granlund’s abilities — or the Canucks’ lack of pro scouting.