It’s been a full year since Canucks nation was sent for a whirlwind when they found out the team had sent Hunter Shinkaruk to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Markus Granlund.
The fan-base was infuriated, and rightfully so.
Craftsman Collision Poll: Your reaction to the Shinkaruk-Granlund trade? #canuckson1040
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) February 23, 2016
A team defunct of goal-scoring – especially in their prospect system – traded away their top point producer at the AHL level. Shinkaruk had potted 39 points (21-18-39) in 45 games with the Utica Comets during his second season of professional hockey prior to the deal.
The former Medicine Hat Tiger had top-six scoring potential written all over him. The 24th overall pick in the 2013 Draft was progressing in the right direction with a legitimate chance at cracking the Canucks roster in the near future. 18 months younger than Granlund, Shinkaruk was behind in development years given the fact he missed the majority of his draft-plus-one season with a hip injury, and Granlund’s pro experience of playing in Finland prior to coming to North America.
The Canucks also already had a boatload of depth centres like Linden Vey, Jared McCann, and Adam Cracknell, who are all no longer with the team.
Meanwhile, Granlund had fallen out of sorts in Cowtown much like Sven Baertschi did when Benning acquired him 11 months earlier.
Canucks assistant general manager John Weisbrod knew Baertschi and Granlund from his time with the Flames until 2013. One might reasonably assume that Weisbrod advocated for the pair.
Shinkaruk has just one assist in seven games with the Flames this season and is producing at a lower rate in the AHL (21 points in 30 games) than he did with the Comets in the 2015-16 campaign.
Granlund’s career got off to an underwhelming start in Vancouver last year, mustering just two goals and one assist in 16 games following the change of scenery. The lack of production had fans of the blue and green ready to write off him despite him not having a full season with the club under his belt.
Rashly judging trades immediatly can be drastically different when reflecting down the line in one, two or five years, although instant analysis to any transaction is something we can’t help ourselves do. Adapting to a new environment, teammates and systems can take time for a player to grasp, especially for a young player like Granlund, who struggled to find a regular spot in the NHL when he was a part of the Flames organization.
The 23-year-old younger brother of Mikael Granlund of the Minnesota Wild is tied for second on the team in goals with Brandon Sutter at 15. Sutter plays 3:08 more per game on average than Granlund and 57 seconds more on the power play. His production is encouraging to see in what has been one of the worst seasons in the history of the Canucks franchise in terms of goal scoring. Twelve of Granlund’s 15 goals have come at even strength.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) February 20, 2017
Flying under the radar this season, he’s is on pace to reach the 20-goal plateau in his first full season in the NHL, and has blossomed into a versatile asset up and down the lineup. He’s also shown a willingness to head to the net, as emphasized in this shot chart.
Drafted and developed as a centre, Desjardins has slotted Granlund in at all three forward positions this season. He’s become a serviceable piece in their lineup, a ‘Finnish army knife’ if you will, and is currently the beneficiary right-winger on the Canucks’ top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Granlund is a complete player that does everything relatively well. His game lacks flashiness, but his vision and shot might be his best two strengths. The chart below shows which players produce the highest amount of goals + primary assists at 5-on-5, in comparison to their team’s production when they’re on the ice.
Check out the company he keeps…
A look at which players are directly responsible most often for the 5-on-5 goals their team scores when they're on the ice. pic.twitter.com/wPpU9XJU8B
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) February 16, 2017
Through 60 games, only Brendan Gaunce and Loui Eriksson have a better better shot attempt differential with a minimum of 15 games played at 5-on-5 among Canucks forwards.
You may not agree with some of Jim Benning’s maneuvers, but Markus Granlund is making strides in his young NHL career. While there’s still certainly time for Shinkaruk to develop into an impact player at the NHL level, for now the Canucks are winning the trade.
Granlund has not only become a piece of the Canucks’ future, he’s one of the best bargains on the club carrying just a $900,000 cap hit, with one more year left on his contract after this season. He’s also a big reason why calls to trade Jannik Hansen have intensified, as the organization would be wise to protect the young Finn over the older Dane in the expansion draft.