Of all the prospects on this Top-25 list, I would wager that Jonas Brodin is the safest bet to have a long and successful NHL career. Only recently turning 22, Brodin has already played in 195 career games. His rankings in even strength TOI/gm since his rookie year as a 19 y/o are 11th, 8th, and 4th, respectively. Brodin has played top pairing minutes his entire career; he's been a machine.
Brodin's underwhelming sophomore season seems an anomaly now after a very successful season in 2014-15. He finished the season with a Fenwick For % of 51.5, while matching up with the opposition's top lines on a nightly basis. While Brodin still hasn't produced any eye-popping individual offensive numbers, the team numbers with Brodin on the ice are positive across the board. With Brodin on the ice at even strength last year, the Wild scored 60.2% of goals, good for 7th in the league for defenseman with >1000 minutes. Look where Brodin ranks in GF% over the past three years of all defenseman with >3000 minutes:
Courtesy of Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com
To be in that company of defenseman before turning 22 is simply ridiculous. There is no question that Brodin's uber-elite skating ability allows him to dominate in the defensive and neutral zones. He is essentially never caught out of position because he just doesn't have to turn and scramble to keep up with opposing forwards. His edge-work, lateral and backward skating ability are near tops in the league.
As you may have noticed, Mathew Dumba has yet to appear in our rankings, meaning that he was ranked higher than Brodin in our collective rankings. I understand the excitement surrounding Dumba after his electric season, but I still personally had Brodin over Dumba in my ranks. Here's my thinking behind the difficult decision of ranking Brodin over Dumba:
Brodin has already showed that against top competition he makes a substantially positive impact on goals for %. If Brodin fails to improve his game going forward, he will still be a top-pairing, minute-munching defenseman who is dominant in the defensive zone and has a positive impact on possession and team goal-scoring. We don't have to hope he develops into that kind of player because that is what he is at this point. For me, there is too much unknown to Dumba's game to vault him over Brodin after only 71 games in the league. Dumba is only a year younger than Brodin and he is still yet to play against consistently tough competition. We do not know if he will be able to sustain his offensive contributions when he plays more minutes and has to expend more energy chasing around opposing stars. It's also impossible to ignore the ugly history this franchise has had with offense-first defenseman. We have all seen Kim Johnsson, Marek Zidlicky, Tom Gilbert, Brent Burns, and Nick Leddy stymied by this team and it's defense-first style. With Brodin, we have a player who fits perfectly within the system and does not have to change his game to be an elite defender. If he is able to convert his strong possession numbers into tangible offensive contributions we may be talking about Brodin as the best defenseman on the team at this point next year.