The Ufa franchise is now the third seed in the Eastern Conference, with four Ws in the latest five games and a few days to rest as their next match is scheduled for Jan. 3 against Avtomobilist. In his first season in the KHL, Markus Granlund forms one of the best trios in the league with Sakari Manninen and Teemu Hartikainen. The Finnish unit scored 46 goals for Salavat Yulaev so far, with Granlund and Hartikainen tied in the top-5 for goals with 17 tallies each. Tomi Lamsa also ices Danish D-man Philip Larsen in the club’s first unit, and the presence of Juha Metsola gives the team a strong Nordic accent like no other team in the league. Granlund, 27, is currently the second scorer for the Bashkortostan franchise, trailing only Teemu Hartikainen, presently in the second position in the overall scoring race.
Along with his brother Mikael, Markus Granlund was born in Oulu, the most populous city in Northern Finland. There, the Granlund brothers started playing hockey, first for Laser HT, then for Karpat. Other notable players from Oulu include Granlund’s teammate Sakari Manninen, former Gagarin Cup champions Hannes Hyvonen and Janne Jalasvaara, and Jokerit’s Julius Junttila. However, in 2009 the brothers moved South to Helsinki, signing with the local HIFK. Representing the Helsinki side, Granlund helped Team Finland win a bronze medal at the 2010 U18 WJC in Belarus when he assisted a goal by his brother in the bronze-medal game against Team Russia. In the next season, the Finnish forward had his senior-league debut, playing two games for HIFK. In the following spring, he was drafted both in the KHL and the NHL by Salavat Yulaev Ufa and Calgary Flames, respectively. In 2011-2012, Granlund was the best scorer among rookies in the Finnish top-flight league, scoring an impressive 34 (15+19) points in 47 regular-season games. The next season, the forward had another excellent season with HIFK, but without much success in the playoffs. In both seasons, he represented Finland at the WJC without winning any medal. In his second attempt, he was tied for the tournament’s second place in scoring with 12 (5+7) points in six games.
Granlund decided to move to North America following his two seasons with HIFK’s senior squad, and he spent most of his first year overseas with the Flames’ affiliate in the AHL, the Abbotsford Heat at the times. Granlund didn’t enjoy much success with the Flames, and after playing 79 games at the NHL level with the Alberta franchise, he was traded to another Canadian team — the Vancouver Canucks — in February 2016 for Kunlun’s forward Hunter Shinkaruk. In British Columbia, Granlund became a full-time NHL player and enjoyed another three seasons with the team, scoring a total of 59 (31+28) points in 215 games. However, despite scoring 22 (12+10) points in his final year with the Canucks, he found himself a new team for the 2019-2020 season, signing with another Canadian franchise, the Edmonton Oilers. There, he will once again split time between the NHL and the AHL, reaching a total of 338 NHL career games, with 102 (58+44) points.
As an impending free agent, Granlund decided to return to Europe, and on July 17, 2020, he signed a two-year deal with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL. In his new team, he made an impact right away, scoring one goal and two assists in his first game when the Ufa side defeated Torpedo in Nizhny Novgorod with a 3-2 score, opening his account in the KHL after just a minute and a half. By two weeks, he already had his first four-point game — again against Torpedo — when he potted a double with a pair of assists on Sep. 15.
Playing on a line with Hartikainen and Manninen, Granlund is now on a five-game point streak and has amassed 38 (17+21) points in 33 games played so far. Tomi Lamsa will need Granlund to continue playing strong to go deep in the 2021 KHL Gagarin Cup playoffs. Moreover, the Finnish forward will have a chance to debut at the senior IIHF World Championship next spring.