Last season, Mikael Granlund opened as Minnesota’s second-line center, only to lose the spot to Matt Cullen and, this year, to fellow sophomore Charlie Coyle.
“Every level where he’s played before, [Granlund’s] found a way to be a star,” Selanne told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “The way he can see the game and his creative style of hockey, especially offensively, that’s the kind of player he can be.
“Obviously he needs good players around him, but the vision he has and the way he can see linemates, it’s something really special.”
Granlund, 21, spent the summer skating alongside the 43-year-old Selanne in their native Finland. It was in Finland where Selanne told Granlund what he needed to work on to improve his game — additional leg strength and skating speed — and the youngster appears to have listened.
Granlund got off to a great start in a season-opening shootout loss to L.A., notching a pair of assists. That paved the way for an increased role in Minnesota’s second game of the year, a OT loss to the Ducks, in which Granlund played 21 shifts (up from 18 in Game 1) and 15:39 TOI (up from 14:54).
Now, with Coyle out of the lineup, the Finn figures to get even more work. There’s a good possibility he’ll be centering the second power play unit on Tuesday when the Wild takes on Nashville.
Selanne said that for Granlund to succeed, he’ll need to keep playing with confidence.
“I told Granny, and I always say to guys with that kind of talent who have all the tools, the biggest thing they need is confidence,” he explained. “And you have to find it somewhere, somehow, especially when you have disappointment after things don’t go as easy right away as maybe they did in the past.”