The rookie phenom. Skates like wind. Bacon. Lidstorm 2.0. Supergod/Megagod. These are just a few of the names that Wild fans have come up with to describe rookie defender Jonas Brodin, who has managed to leave people so awestruck with his abilities that many fans can’t form coherent sentences about him. Brodin has effortlessly skated his way into the hearts of Wild fans and teammates alike, with Zenon Konopka doing his best to try and get Brodin nominated for the Calder trophy this season.
"It’s pretty different" Jonas Brodin said to Mike Damante of the Houston Chronicle’s Hockey Stop blog about the adjustments he had to make in order to play the North American style of hockey. " It’s much faster here than back home, and much smaller ice. It’s more up and down, you have to be faster out there, that’s the biggest thing."
It's safe to say at this point Brodin has adjusted to this new style of hockey better (and quicker) than most people expected him to.
It’s important to note that while Brodin hasn’t produced a goal in his short career with the Wild, he certainly has been a calming presence on the blue line. Ryan Suter, half of the Wilds expensive addition over the summer, had trouble adjusting his game to not include long time partner and Norris trophy nominee Shea Weber. Suter went through just about every partner he could have with the Wild before Brodin was cleared off of injured reserve and called up to join the team. On January 29th against the Blue Jackets, Suter and Brodin played their first game together as a defensive pairing. After the game, Suter spoke to the media about Brodin and stated "you couldn’t tell he’s a rookie by watching him". The way Brodin handles himself in this league already, at the young age of 19 and only 15 NHL games under his belt, is unreal.
In his limited time on North American ice, Brodin has certainly had impressive numbers. In Houston this year, he played only 8 games before being sidelined with a broken clavicle after a hit by Taylor Hall in Oklahoma City on November 2nd. He returned for one game with the Aeros before being called up to play in Minnesota. In his 9 games for the Aeros, Brodin managed to score 2 goals, 2 assists and leave the team with a +2 rating. In his 15 games wearing a Wild sweater he only has 2 assists, but most importantly he has a +2 rating overall as well. The only defender that has a higher rating is Nate Prosser (who has only played in 9 games this season and has managed to not be on the ice for any GA) at +3. Overall, Brodin has the third highest +/- rating on the team.
Minnesota fans aren’t the only people taking notice of Brodin’s skill either. The Calgary Herald published an entire article about Brodin and the affect he’s had on the Wild this season. The Edmonton Journal posted a story about Brodin being a potential Calder nominee last week. Kevin Allen of USA Today stated that Brodin could make the Olympic team for Sweden. Slowly but surely, people around the league are taking note of his game.
Hockey Wilderness’s very own Finnish correspondent Juuso (aka Saikka)has had the pleasure of watching Brodin skate in Sweden for the last few seasons. He chimes in on the rookie wonder and how well he’s been playing since moving across the Atlantic.
Brodin's potential on the offensive side of the game is still huge, even if it doesn't look like it just by looking at his numbers. When Brodin won the Swedish Elite League with Farjestads BK, he was a reliable defenseman with and without the puck. He saw limited icetime on the powerplay because the team had more experienced players to fill those spots. But as a 17-year-old, he was still a player the team could trust, no matter the score or the situation on the ice. And that speaks volumes.
Probably his two biggest assets are his skating and composure with the puck. He has the ability to make the right play under pressure at the NHL level, and that's something you rarely see a 19-year-old do with such consistency and confidence. He creates time and space for himself with his skating and rarely makes bad decisions when breaking out of his own zone. Simply put; Brodin plays like a guy that's 29, not 19.
And what about the job he does on 1-on-1 situations when the opposing forward is coming at him with speed? Let me take you back a few weeks. I don't have footage of the game against St. Louis Blues on hand, but... ohhhh boy.
Third period, T.J. Oshie gets the puck near the Wild blueline. Gathers it on the left side of the ice, and tries to take Brodin 1-on-1. First of all, Brodin is positioned perfectly to begin with. He gives Oshie the outside line and Oshie takes it. Now, Oshie is kinda fast. "Kinda", as in "he will fly by you if you give him the chance". So, that's what Oshie has in mind, but Brodin sticks with him, plays the angles perfectly and denies Oshie the chance of cutting in and firing a wrist shot. Then, suddenly, Brodin has Oshie in an angle where he's not getting a shot off, nor can he pass the puck to a teammate. Oshie's pretty much in the corner and Brodin gets his stick on the puck and breaks up the play. Can't remember if Brodin got a takeaway on the play, but nonetheless, the chance that Oshie had was gone. There was this one guy in Detroit that did the same exact thing to forwards for 20 seasons. And I'm not comparing Brodin to Nicklas Lidstrom. I'm just saying there's elements in the rookie's game that resemble the future Hall Of Famer. And that's something that should make every single Wild fan really, really excited about this kid.
Juuso sums it up well Wild fans. This kid is going to be a star, and luckily Chuck Fletcher and his scouts hit the jackpot big time when they drafted him. The State of Hockey's future is looking pretty bright with Brodin leading the charge.