Wild about the (little) brother

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

The similarities between Minnesota Wild centre Mikko Koivu and his brother pretty much end at the last name.

While Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu has been a dazzling NHLer for a decade, Mikko -- only a couple of weeks into his NHL career -- offers a different game, based on his size.

Just ask Wild veteran Wes Walz.

"Their facial features make them brothers," Walz says. "Mikko's a big, strong centre and his brother is a smaller, quicker player. I know he wants to build his own reputation and will do that as a fantastic player."

Minnesota fans needed to wait to see Koivu, who potted his second career NHL goal in a 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames last night at the Saddledome.

After being drafted sixth overall in 2001, he played two years overseas, then missed the first month of this rookie season with a knee injury. With only four games under his belt prior to last night's encounter with the Flames, Koivu is making his teammates realize what the fuss was about.

"He does everything exceptionally well," Walz said. "He doesn't do one thing overly great but he does everything really, really well. He handles the puck well, skates better than average, is very smart and has a really good shot. He can be put in any situation.

"He's going to be a really solid NHL player for a number of years."

Hefty praise, indeed. In fact, too much for the 22-year-old from Finland to stomach.

"Wes said that?" Koivu said.

"Don't believe him."

No, believe him. At 6-ft. 3-in., 200 lb., Koivu possesses size hockey coaches love. He also boasts fantastic skills. Before he played an NHL game, he was part of Finland's silver medal-winning team at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

Last season, he opted to play in North America during the lockout season, even with the knowledge an NHL gig wasn't likely to happen in 2004-05.

"Off the ice, it was huge for me," said Koivu, who collected his first NHL goal in his second game. "Everything is so different than what it was like back home. On the ice, it's different, too. Everything together, helped me a lot as a person and as a player."

Though the younger Koivu shies away from any comparisons with his brother, there is one more area to find a similarity. Already there is a belief he, too, is captain material.

Walz, now a cagey vet at age 35, can see it.

"He carries himself with a certain amount of confidence, Walz said. "He doesn't say a lot in the dressing room but as the years go by and he gains more confidence and scores more goals, and being the kind of player he'll be one day, I can see that happening."


Videos

Photos