The Nashville Predators leadership group took a few big hits during the offseason with the departures of former associate captain Ryan Ellis and franchise cornerstone Pekka Rinne.
Fortunately for head coach John Hynes, there were plenty of other players on his roster that were highly respected and well suited to replace them.
Defenseman Mattias Ekholm was a natural fit for one of those roles. Ekholm, who signed a four-year contract extension on Wednesday, was mentioned by name by captain Roman Josi in January as a player who had leadership qualities and served as an unspoken locker room leader.
The second alternate captain spot could have gone to any one of a handful of players including Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg or Colton Sissons. But for Hynes, that list started and ended with Mikael Granlund.
“He does it the right way all the time, and that’s what you want” Hynes said of why he picked Granlund as an alternate captain. “With [captains], they’ve got to be consistent and reliable and play the game the right way and be guys that you can count on. He, like our team, … I thought he was good tonight, but I know there’s better in him.”
Granlund is entering his third full season with the Predators, where he's been far and away the team’s best forward since Hynes took over as head coach in January of 2020.
The 29-year-old leads all forwards in average ice time under Hynes and he has tallied 25 goals 46 points 79 games, including Nashville’s 4-3 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. Granlund has also seen his points-per-game production jump from 0.37 under ex-head coach Peter Laviolette to 0.58 under Hynes.
The 5-foot-10 Finn isn't unfamiliar with leadership roles. After all, he served as the captain of the Finnish U20 team at the 2012 World Junior Championship and the the Finnish National Team at the 2017-18 IIHF World Championship.
Granlund isn't the most vocal player. In fact, he's rather reserved. He chooses to lead by example — a Josi 2.0, if you will. But don’t mistake Granlund's quiet demeanor for a lack of influence. He believes he’s the kind of player who can inspire those around him simply by being himself.
“I just try to go out there and do the right things every single day,” Granlund said. “[I try to] show the example, show the work you put in and the way you compete and just play hard. I really hope our young guys can feed off that and just try to do the best you can all the time.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_