The IIHF World Championship in Slovakia wrapped up a few days ago as Finland took home the gold. I was able to catch a decent number of games, focusing more on the European squads than the North Americans onesso I have some notes from on a couple of top NHL prospects from Teams Denmark, Finland, Russia and Sweden.
Mikael Granlund, Center, Minnesota Wild (SM-Liiga):
Granlund had some injury problems this year and didn't blow the doors down as I thought he would, but at the Worlds the head injuries seemed to be behind him and his game simply looked at another level. The mainstream is likely familiar with his highlight reel goal in the semi-finals, but Granlund's performance at this tournament was so much more than that. He was playing at a high level in just about every game and there were times where he looked like he was toying with some of the defensemen he was lining up against. His puck skills and hockey sense both looked well above-average to potentially elite tools and there's little question in my mindif Granlund can handle the NHL's physicalitythat he will control the possession game very well. His patience, vision, anticipation, defensive awareness and overall hockey sense is extremely impressive, and when you combine it with the puck abilities that consistently make people miss, it makes Granlund a feared weapon. His ability on the power play is very good and he has the uncanny ability to wait out opponents, make last-second decisions as a lane steadily opens and execute. His skating seems to have developed a little bit too, and while it's not at pro-average, it looks a little better than where it was last year. The physical aspect is the only thing that will hold Granlund back, and he's shown the work ethic to play physical so if he can handle pro defenders regularly, he's going to be a star. If you asked me a few months ago who was the best NHL prospect I likely would have juggled between a few names including Granlund, and said there was no standout number one player. However after seeing where Granlund is in his development, there is no question in my mind, the Wild's 2010 first rounder is the best prospect in hockey and may be ready to score in the league as soon as next season.
Update: Mikael Granlund will remain in Finland next season to complete high school and his military service requirement. Read more here.