Jonas Brodin hopefully loves roller coasters. Last year he was all the way down at #5 in the T25U25. Yes, he was out-shown by Mikael Granlund, Matt Dumba, Charlie Coyle, and Nino Niederreiter (all but one of whom are now too old) but nonetheless; Brodin was down. He even dropped a bit, after coming in at #4 in 2015. He was there in 2014 as well, right behind Spurgeon, Nino, and Granny.
The drop to 5 last year wasn’t unexpected. Brodin, formerly called “Kidstrom” had failed to develop even a hint of an offensive talent. After an 11-point debut in MN (45 games), his point totals are, in order (starting in 13-14) 19, 17, and 7 in 2015-2016. Seven points in 68 games. That’s pathetic, even for a defenseman.
So, why the rise to numero dos? Two reasons. Firstly, Nino, Coyle, and Granny are all too old. Secondly, he came out last season and posted 25 points. Yes, only 3 of those were goals, but 22 helpers isn’t awful, particularly given how low expectations were offensively speaking.
Placing him this high was not unanimous. While 8 voters had him at #1 and #2 (split evenly 4-4), 2 voters had him still down at #5, and one voter dropped him to 6th. Clearly, some thought the offensive dynamo that is 25 points from a defenseman was a one-hit wonder and won’t be repeated.
And, in fairness to those three, they might be right. Before last season, Brodin’s high-point total was 19 in 79 games and that was back in 2013-14. In 2012-13 he put in 15 points between the AHL and NHL in 54 games. In 2011-12 he only put up 8 points ofr Farjestad BK in the SHL- 49 games.
Brodin has never been a particularly offensive defenseman. Last season showed something else; not only did he put up more points, but his movement was much more aggressive. What’s more, his possession metrics skyrocketed. After an underwhelming -4.5 CF%Rel (that is, he dragged Minnesota’s possession numbers down by 4.5% when on the ice) he was a positive last season. His unblocked-shots metrics were even better and the best news: his PDO (a rough measure of ‘luck’) remained constant. His on-ice shooting percentage increased, but the save percentage decreased an equivalent amount. In other words, Brodin’s season wasn’t being made by a good goalie nor by good linemates; while his linemates’ shooting improved, the goalie got worse.
Making a long story longer, we saw a glimpse last season of a Brodin that we didn’t think existed, and so hopes are high that he repeats that performance. With the departure of Marco Scandella and the uncertainty that is Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly, he almost has to, or the Wild blue line is in trouble. Ryan Suter is a fine player, but hardly a danger from the blue line. Matt Dumba is certainly offensive but the likelihood of him succeeding as the only threat from deep are slim at best.
No matter what happens on the scoresheet, Brodin is a reliable blue liner. The difference between him with offense and him without is one of a good vs great player. Even if he never scores another point, Brodin’s skating and gap control makes him a good player in the NHL.
For as underwhelming as his offensive play has been, Brodin has been a rock defensively. He’s allowed 521, 524, 497, and 381(!) scoring chances over the past 4 seasons. By the way, of all defenseman who played more than 950 minutes, that 381 scoring chances allowed is the best in the league. Brodin is also the best in the league in terms of high-danger scoring chances allowed (again of defenseman with 950 minutes or more played).
And none of these directly address (though they certainly do indirectly) Brodin’s two biggest strengths: his stick control and his skating. Brodin’s skating is effortless. He can transition from offense to defense with ease, and then back again. While defending, Brodin is disciplined and precise with his stick; he’s never taken more than 20 PIM in a season.
While his passing isn’t flashy, he isn’t wasteful with the puck, making the turn effectively and quickly. These are the traits he can build his game upon, and with another year of coaching from Boudreau, maybe last year really was the real Brodin. Time will tell.