Jonas Brodin has a broken finger and should be out of the Wild’s lineup for about a month, if not more. Last season, Brodin only scored a paltry 7 points, but in only 43 games so far this season, he has already bounced back to score 16 points, three points away from his career high of 19. Brodin’s injury comes at an interesting time as the Wild are in the midst of a hunt to stay first in the West and are preparing for the NHL Expansion Draft in the summer. While the Wild could still lose a forward in the expansion draft, it seems most likely that the Wild will lose one of their defensemen. Since Marco Scandella is in the middle of a rather unsatisfactory season, the Wild will likely lose either Matt Dumba or Brodin, depending on who the choose to expose in the expansion draft. While everyone would prefer that Brodin had stayed healthy, his injury actually gives the Wild a great opprtunity to prepare for the future.
First, Brodin’s injury will help show exactly what he brings to the Wild and possibly help make the case for him to be protected in June. Defensively, Brodin has always been a great skater, but analytics haven’t always backed up his defensive ability. However, as he continues to settle into playing on his strong side, his numbers are looking up. Among players with at least 15 games, Brodin has the fourth best overall even strength Corsi For % (CF%) on the Wild and is the best among Wild defensemen with 50.2%. Among those same players, Brodin is also the fourth best overall at suppressing shots at even strength with only 28.06 shots against per 60. Offensively, Brodin has the third most even strength points per 60 minutes among Wild defensemen with 0.97 and the most points per 60 minutes on the power play among defensemen with 4.80.
Second, Brodin’s injury gives the Wild a chance to see exactly what they have in spare defensemen to replace a defender after the expansion draft. The Wild’s blueline has been crowded for awhile, but there finally looks to be an opening for one of the Wild’s young defensemen on the third pairing.
Over a short term, Nate Prosser can fill in on the Wild’s defense. For the most part, Prosser has had an unexpectedly good year so far and has been generally solid whenever he’s entered the lineup with only a few off games. However, while Prosser can play on the left side despite having a right-handed shot, he hasn’t looked superb there in the few games he’s played on the left. Thus, the Wild should should look to use a defenseman from Iowa to fill out the Wild’s blueline while Brodin is injured.
Following that line of thinking, the Wild called up ex-Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly shortly after Brodin’s injury was diagnosed. While Reilly hasn’t scored in the NHL this season yet through 11 games, he has 4 goals and 15 points in 29 games for the Iowa Wild. Unfortunately, in the two games Reilly has played since being called up, he hasn’t looked great defensively. While he could still be useful in the NHL in general, Reilly doesn’t help the Wild start to replace what Brodin brings to the team right now.
Where does this leave the Wild? While Zach Palmquist and Hunter Warner are having decent seasons in Iowa, Gustav Olofsson may be the best chance the Wild have to fill out their defense. Olofsson leads all Iowa defensemen in points and is 5th overall on the team with 18 points through 40 games. While he has yet to score in the NHL, Olofsson has looked sharp defensively in the few games he’s played with the Minnesota Wild. In addition, his play style is the closest the Wild have to cover for Brodin as Olofsson is a smooth skater who can move the puck well. While Olofsson has been injury prone throughout his professional career, hopefully the Wild give him a longer chance with the big club to see if he can hold up to the NHL in possible preparation for next year.
Brodin’s injury is unfortunate, but it serves as a good wake up call to the Wild to start thinking about this summer’s expansion draft and possibly replacing a defender for next season. With a bounce back season, Brodin is making his best argument to be protected this summer and making it hard to replace him in the lineup. So far, the Wild have unsuccessfully tried to fill out the blueline with Prosser and Reilly, but perhaps Olofsson can fit the current lineup better.
What do you think of the Wild’s current defense situation? Has Brodin made a good enough case so far to be protected over Dumba? Have Prosser or Reilly lived up to your expectations or should the Wild look to call someone else up from Iowa?