Originally signed by the Wild as an undrafted free agent out of the out of the Western Hockey League after the 2016-17 season, defenseman Brennan Menell has shown good improvement over each of the last 3 seasons. Despite not being in the Minnesota Wild organization this year after leaving for the KHL, he has climbed up to the No. 12 spot on Hockey Wilderness’ Top 25 Under 25 list.
A talented offensive defenseman, Menell’s point production has improved in each of the last 3 seasons with the Iowa Wild, going from 25 in 2017-18, to 44 in 2018-19, and to 47 in 2019-20. He even got called up to play for the Wild during the most recent season, unfortunately he wasn’t able to secure his first NHL point while he was in a limited role. Despite coming off a great season in the AHL and recently making his NHL debut, Menell chose to not re-sign with Minnesota as a restricted free agent, instead choosing to sign a one-year deal with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.
The transition to the European game has proven to be no problem, as he has recorded 18 points (3 goals, 15 assists) in his first 17 games played, which is the most of any defenseman in the KHL. His production is especially impressive because he is doing it in a league that is widely considered to be the second-best league in the world behind the NHL, and the fact the he has been able to elevate his game at a higher level is a very encouraging sign.
Menell has always been know as more of an offensive defenseman, and the amount of points that he has produced in his career at both the junior and professional level proves that.
After recording 124 points over 139 games played in his last two seasons in the WHL, the 23-year-old has improved his production in each season of professional hockey that he has played, recording 116 points in 197 games played with the Iowa Wild over the last three seasons.
He has never scored a ton of goals, but his ability to move the puck and create offense as a defenseman are top notch, and it has led to a great start to his season in the KHL.
Roll the Tape
As I mentioned, Menell is very good at moving the puck and creating offense in all situations, but he is even more effective on the power play where has shown the ability to make many great passing plays to set up goals for his teammates.
It's safe to say Brennan Menell had a good night last night!— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) March 4, 2019
Watch here for a recap of his assists: pic.twitter.com/iUaujJlEOA
While he has never scored a lot of goals in his career, he does have a pretty hard slapshot from the point.
Menell is also a pretty good skater who has shown the ability to skate with the puck and beat defenders to create offense on his own.
When you look at how Menell has performed in the AHL, you’d think he has a pretty good chance of becoming a good NHL-level defenseman. After watching him play so well in the KHL this season, it’s becoming clear that not only is Menell an NHL-caliber defenseman, but he has the chance to be a number-four or five defenseman who can contribute offense at even strength and on the power play, while also playing a solid defensive game.
The only question is whether or not he will ever get a good opportunity to showcase his skills and develop into a NHLer with the Wild. And because of how many good right shot defenseman the Wild already have on the team and in the system, there might not be a spot for Menell on the team in the next season or two unless the Wild trade one.
While the Wild still hold his rights, they can’t force him to sign a contract with them, and if Menell still thinks that he won’t get a good opportunity with Minnesota, then the Wild may be forced to trade his rights to another NHL team.
Either way, Menell is a good offensive defenseman who should turn out to be a capable bottom two pair defenseman who can contribute offense at even strength and on the power play. Whether or not he does that with the Wild or another NHL team remains to be seen.