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Granlund leads bevy of young talent in Minnesota

The SportsXchange

It's a new era in Minnesota as the Wild plans to infuse a horde of young talent into the system this summer.

Officially ready to turn pro are first-round picks Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips and second-round picks Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker. And on May 23, the Wild signed 2010 first-round pick Mikael Granlund to a three-year deal.

The Finnish star is considered the head honcho of Wild prospects.

"Mikael is a world-class player," general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "I feel he's ready to play in the NHL, and our expectation is he'll play for our club next year and contribute."

Granlund has been a rock star in Finland ever since being named 2010 Rookie of the Year in the Finnish Elite League. He led IFK-Helsinki to a championship last year by tying for the league scoring lead, then helped lead Finland to gold at the World Championships.

His lacrosse-style goal in the semifinals is captured on a postage stamp and catapulted Granlund into celebrity status. Paparazzi snap his picture everywhere. He landed on the front of tabloids for an alleged relationship with a former Miss Finland.

He's so popular, writer Samuel Savolainen of Finland's top weekly sports magazine, Urheilulehti, is moving to Minnesota next season to cover Granlund and fellow Finns Koivu and Niklas Backstrom.

Granlund's so under the microscope, agent Todd Diamond said leaving Finland for Minnesota could relieve some pressure.

"He's the most Googled athlete in the country the past couple years," Diamond said.

Granlund has grown close with Wild captain Mikko Koivu in Finland, but Fletcher said it'll be up to the coaches where Granlund plays.

"That's going to be up to how Mikael plays in training camp and how the coaches see him fitting in," Fletcher said. "He's played center, he's played wing, he plays both well. Over his career, I'm sure he'll play center, left wing, right wing, power play, penalty kill. As for where he starts, who knows? As we've seen over the last couple years, there's a lot of change in our roster with injuries and performance. So he may have to play a little bit of everything very quickly. I'll leave that up to the coaches and Mikael to work out."

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