Mikael Granlund, the Crown Jewel of The Minnesota Wild Toybox (and the Tenth Best Hockey Prospect according to Hockey's Future) capped off his season in the SM-Liiga with 16 points in 15 playoff games, as his HIFK squad swept Espoo for the League Title.
The next step for young Mr. Granlund will be to suit up for Finland in nine days for the World Championships, where he'll be playing along side Private Gomer Pyle, I mean Mikko Koivu. The prospects of Mikael Granlund in a Wild sweater are exciting, especially for a fanbase of a moribund National League Hockey team. However, Chuck Fletcher has no plans to streamline Granlund's assimilation to the NHL.
In an ideal world, Granlund will sign an NHL contract so he can do the numerous Camps- Prospect Development Camp in the Summer (which will draw big time crowds for the scrimmages if he's on this side of the pond), the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, and Training Camp. Presumably there will be a few roster spots up for grabs (depending on free agency, but likely at least two wing openings in the Top 9) so he'll have to battle like the rest of the prospective NHLers for it. Worse comes to worse, he'll go to Houston to start the year (the sound you hear is Ms. Conduct championing that concept.)
"He shall not be rushed," says the Brain Trust. However that statement doesn't end in a period. Its not definitive, an absolute, the decree from on high. The part that is being left off is "unless he shows that he can play at the NHL level."
Granlund's SM-Liiga resume looks like this: 76 points in 82 games, 22 points in 21 playoff games, and a League Title all by the age of 19. His international resume, to date (U-18 and World Junior Championships) consists of 9 goals, 27 assists in 24 games, resulting in two bronze medals (and there's an argument to be made about the strength of some of those teams he played on.)
He's been dominant among his peer group. He was dominant in the top Men's League in Finland. Granlund doesn't have anything to left to prove- except that he can play in the NHL.
So now he's set to play games for his country in the World Championships in Slovakia, with and against current NHLers. I'm venturing to guess that there will be interested parties on hand to see how the kid fares- The World Championships do serve as a platform for offseason maneuvers afterall, so its a cinch that The Brass will be there in person. We, the public, don't have these games readily accessible to us- well, for the most part (live streams, I know I know.) We, as Wild fans, won't have any idea how he does against what is perceived to be the next step on his path to the NHL. Youtube highlights and press clippings don't do the actual game justice- but that's all we'll have.
Sure, there is a development motif involved; why potentially screw up Minnesota's most promising forward prospect since...Pierre-Marc Bouchard(?) by unnecessarily fast tracking someone who isn't NHL-ready. It makes perfect sense- this franchise needs all the help it can get.
However the oath that "Mikael Granlund won't be rushed to the NHL" was a way of tempering expectations of the fans and reining in the romantic notion that Mikael Granlund will step in from Day One and save this franchise.
Even if Hockey Ops sees that Granlund is NHL ready.