HELSINKI – Over the years, there have been numerous great Finnish hockey brothers, both in the Finnish national team, and, more recently, in the NHL. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, there were the Mononen brothers, Erkki and Lauri from Joensuu, and from across the river, the Kapanens, Hannu and Jari.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Sami and Jali Wahlsten were two of the core players in the Jokerit team that was something of a dynasty in Finland.
In the last ten years, there have been Hannu’s sons, Sami and Kimmo Kapanen, the Kiprusoffs, Marko and Miikka, the Koivus, Saku and Mikko, and the Ruutus, Jarkko, Tuomo, and Mikko.
So if the Granlunds want to become the best brother punch in Finnish hockey, they have their work carved out for them. But they might still be just that, the best brothers ever.
Mikael Granlund, 19, last season’s Rookie of the Year in the SM-liiga, and the Minnesota Wild’s first-round draft pick, is now followed by his brother, Markus, 17. The younger Granlund has played in the Finnish major junior league this season, collecting 52 points in 40 games, tied for second in the league, then adding nine points in five playoff games.
And showing a few YouTube-worthy moves along the way.
“I’m pretty pleased with my own season, but the fact that we got ousted in the quarterfinals leaves a sour taste in my mouth, especially since we managed to tie the series, but then lost the last game,” Markus Granlund told IIHF.com.
All in all, it’s been a great season, highlighted by Markus’s SM-liiga debut.
“Of course, it was a great experience, and I got to play with such great players,” Markus Granlund says, referring to the fact that he stepped right into Mikael’s skates as a centre of HIFK Helsinki’s first-line centre, between Ville Peltonen and Lennart Petrell, while the elder Granlund was sidelined with a concussion.
The two SM-liiga games were good confidence boosters, he says.
“Of course, everything was faster, and the game was a lot more physical than in the juniors, but at the same time, it was also more organized, because the players are better and the teams stick to their systems, making it that way a little easier to step in,” he says.
“I got to test myself and know how much work still lies ahead of me, but it also motivates me,” he adds.
Now, Markus is only 14 months younger than Mikael, so the two already won bronze together at the World U18 Championship last year. This season, Markus will step into Mikael’s old boots, leading Team Finland in the same tournament that this year will be played in Germany in April.
Did the fact that Mikael was out of the action for two months due to a concussion have any effect on him?
“Sure I was wondering and hoping that he’d get to play as soon as possible. But worried? Not really,” Markus says.
And why worry, indeed. Markus Granlund’s strong season has naturally got a lot of attention, and his name has come up in rumors, in connection with several SM-liiga clubs. It’s also his NHL draft year, and the NHL Central Scouting has him listed as 16th on the European skaters list.
“My focus is on the tournament now, I’m not planning longer than the end of the season,” he says.
“All my focus is on April 14, and our first game against Norway. We’re in a tough group with Canada, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, all good teams,” he says.
Just two days later, Markus gets to celebrate his 18th birthday in a game against Canada.
“We’ve played well this season, we’ve beat several of the big nations, Sweden even twice, so we’re confident going in,” he says.
In the February Five Nations tournament in the Czech Republic, Finland finished second, losing only to Team USA. Granlund lead his team in scoring with 5+1=6 points, fourth most in the tournament.
He was also Finland’s player of the game in two of the four games.