Ferland was born April 20, 1992, in Swan River, Manitoba. He is the middle of three children – he has an older sister and a younger brother – raised alone by his mother Dianne who worked as a dietary aide at a nursing home in Swan River. Micheal played house league hockey from age eight to 15 before earning the attention of the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings; he was given a try-out and earned a place with the team. Dianne struggled to fund her son's hockey dream; she required support from charities such as KidSport and the Manitoba Métis Foundation to help pay for his equipment. Dianne also credited her eldest daughter, Samantha, who was never able to play competitive sports herself as the family was unable to support more than one child in the sport. When Micheal made the midget Wheat Kings team, the parents of his Swan River teammates helped pay his enrollment fees.
At age 17, Ferland joined the major junior Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He scored 9 goals and 28 points in 61 games during the 2009–10 regular season. He also appeared in 15 playoff games for Brandon, and played an additional five in the 2010 Memorial Cup. The Calgary Flames selected him with their fifth round pick, 133rd overall, at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Ferland remained with Brandon for the following two seasons where he recorded 56 points in 2010–11 then finished ninth in WHL scoring with 96 points in 2011–12.
Ferland began his professional career in 2012–13. The Flames assigned him to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat to begin the season, but he arrived to training camp in poor condition and struggled with Abbotsford. After seven games, he was demoted to the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies for just three more games before the Flames returned him to junior hockey and the Brandon Wheat Kings. His stay with the Wheat Kings was similarly short as Brandon traded Ferland to the Saskatoon Blades; as he struggled, the 20-year-old Ferland became discouraged and considered quitting hockey entirely. He persevered and played a pivotal role with the Blades as they won 18 consecutive games and appeared in the 2013 Memorial Cup as the host team.
The Flames worked with Ferland throughout as they attempted to guide his career forward. During the 2012–13 season, coach Bob Hartley connected Ferland with former NHL and fellow aboriginal player Gino Odjick to help his transition to professional hockey. Ferland returned to Abbotsford for the 2013–14 AHL season 24 pounds lighter than the 234 pounds he weighed the previous season. He recorded 18 points in 25 games for the Heat before suffering a knee injury on December 12, 2013 that ended his season. Ferland had been considered a candidate to be recalled to Calgary prior to suffering his knee injury; the team had intended to recall him to the Flames as a reward for his work in Abbotsford at the time he was hurt.
Returning to health in time for training camp prior to the 2014–15 NHL season, Ferland continued to impress the Flames' coaches with both his scoring ability and physical play. He did not make the roster out of camp; he was assigned to the Adirondack Flames to start the season. He led Adirondack with four goals and five assists in nine games when an injury to Mikael Backlund led the Flames to recall Ferland to Calgary on October 30, 2014. He made his NHL debut the following night in a 4–3 victory over the Nashville Predators, but was himself injured and missed the following eight games after being hit with an elbow to the head by Anton Volchenkov. Volchenkov received a four-game suspension for the hit. Ferland recorded his first NHL point on November 22, 2014, with an assist on a goal by Josh Jooris in a 5–4 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Ferland played ten games with Calgary before being returned to Adirondack. On his second recall to Calgary, Ferland scored his first NHL goal, against goaltender Carter Hutton of the Nashville Predators. It was the game-winning marker in a 5–2 victory on March 29, 2015.
Ferland finished his first NHL season with two goals and five points in 26 games. In Calgary's first round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks, Ferland's physical play quickly made him a fan favourite in Calgary. His battles with Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa became a focal point of the series. Bieksa attempted to trivialize Ferland's impact by calling him "irrelevant." However, Ferland had a significant impact on the sixth and deciding game of the series, in Calgary. After the Canucks stormed out to a 3–0 lead less than ten minutes into the game, Ferland started a Flames comeback by converting a pass from Matt Stajan late in the period and then ended the scoring with an empty net goal in a 7–4 victory that eliminated Vancouver from the post-season. His performance with the Flames earned Ferland a two-year, $1.65 million contract extension.
In the off-season prior to the 2012–13 season, Ferland was charged with assault and aggravated assault following a bar fight in Cochrane, Alberta. He played the following two seasons under the spectre of the assault charge before going to trial over the summer of 2014. Ferland was acquitted of the charges by a jury which found that he had acted in self-defence after being sucker punched by one of his accusers.
Ferland is among many hockey players representing the Cree nation.
In addition to his legal and professional struggles, Ferland also struggled with alcoholism. He ultimately turned to Flames' head coach Bob Hartley and teammate Brian McGrattan – who himself overcame a drinking problem – for help. Ferland was also supported by Flames' minor league coach Mike Thompson, and celebrated one year of sobriety on March 27, 2015, two days before scoring his first NHL goal. Upon Ferland's one-year milestone, Hartley expressed his pride and support of Ferland for opening up and seeking treatment after he had noticed the player was struggling.