Print Edition: February 26, 2014
Anyone who grew up with a brother or sister has seen first-hand the competitive nature of sibling rivalry, and how healthy competition can push athletes to perform at higher levels. Throughout NHL history, from the Espisitos to the Staals, there have been many sets of talented brothers who have made it to the big show.
Twenty-year-old Abbotsford Heat rookie Markus Granlund will always be the younger brother of Mikael, who wears 67 for the Minnesota Wild and recently represented Finland at the Sochi Olympics. As a result, the most common question going into the season was how he would fare in a new league without his brother next to him.
Markus dominated the SM-Liiga (Finnish Elite League) with Mikael back in 2011-12. Playing on the same line for HIFK, the teenagers finished one and two in league scoring against men five to 10 years their senior. However, after Mikael left the next season to play with Minnesota, Markus had a significant dip in scoring, falling from 15 goals in 2011-12 to 10 in 2012-13. Despite this underwhelming season for Markus, he finished among the top players of his age in the world at the 2013 World Junior Championship, scoring five goals and 12 points in only six games.
Heading into Heat training camp this season, the small centre needed to either shore up his defensive play or increase his scoring pace if he wanted to be successful on the Heat roster. At just over the halfway point in the season, Granlund has stunned everyone, scoring 23 goals and 43 points in only 48 games. Those numbers are good enough for the team lead this season, crushing the Heat’s rookie points record of 34, which was previously held by both T.J. Brodie and Dustin Sylvester.
Heat coach Troy G. Ward calls him “a young star in the waiting.”
Granlund has centred a line with Max Reinhart and veteran winger Blair Jones for the past month, finding great chemistry with the two Canadian players. He’s worked hard to establish himself as the Heat’s go-to offensive force, making his fine stick skills and wicked wrist shot a real threat on the ice. His dangerous play has undoubtedly put himself on the radar of Flames management, who will be looking to fill potentially vacant spots on their roster after March 5 trade deadline.
While his brother Mikael keeps adding to his resume, posting five goals and 23 assists in 46 games with the Wild and winning a bronze medal with team Finland at the Olympics this past week, a year-end call-up might be just what Markus needs to get out from his brother’s shadow and establish himself in Calgary as a key piece in the team’s uncertain future.