The Minnesota Wild have had plenty of highlights this season, including Kirill Kaprizov’s case for the Calder Trophy or their surprising push for the postseason. With so much to cover, a few storylines have flown under the radar, one of those noteworthy narratives is the play of Jonas Brodin.
In the past few seasons, the 27-year-old has started to be recognized for his stellar play by both Minnesota and the NHL at large. In fact, he recently signed a seven-year, $42 million contract extension that kicks in after this season. This was a huge commitment by the organization, but it signaled that they believe in Brodin’s abilities on the ice and in his work ethic off it.
The 10th-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft has been leaned on heavily for his defensive play, and while that’s still the case, Brodin is finding ways to factor into the offense as well. Even after nearly 600 games in the league, he continues to find new ways to raise the bar in an already stellar career.
Brodin’s New Personal Best
Brodin has never been regarded for his offensive game, but this season is different. Not only is he on pace to set new milestones, but he’s also found ways to evolve his game. His confidence with the puck in the offensive zone and willingness to shoot it is one of the many reasons why the Wild are playing so well.
In 33 games this season, the left-handed defender has five goals and 16 points. His 1.3 points per 60 are the best of his 9-year career and should help him eclipse his highest point total in a season of 28. Adjusted for a full 82-game season, Brodin would be on track for 38 points.
He’s also had an uptick in his shot metrics. First, Brodin’s average of 3.2 shots per 60 (S/60) increased considerably to 4.4 S/60. Second, his commonly unthreatening shot has become a little tougher to handle for opposing netminders. His 0.8 rebounds created per 60 is an improvement on his previous three-season average of 0.3 rebounds created per 60. Finally, his conversion rate has surged. In his time with the Wild, he’s shot at a solid 5% rate but, this season, it’s bumped up to 9.8%.
🖐— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) February 23, 2021
Jonas Brodin scores and the @mnwild have power play goals in back-to-back games! pic.twitter.com/YqZsDhSVGK
Overall, the Swedish defender is finding more ways to contribute offensively. His increased personal production corresponds with the Wild’s high-scoring style of play. As long as the team continues to succeed, anticipate that Brodin will follow suit. There’s still plenty of games left in 2020-21, and a lot can happen in that time. However, his strong first half is a positive sign for now and his future in Minnesota.
It Ain’t Much But it’s Honest Work
The surge in offensive production is a nice touch, but it wasn’t the reason why the Wild extended Brodin’s contract into his 30s. In his nearly decade-long tenure in Minnesota, the cerebral blueliner has quietly established himself as one of the best stay-at-home defenders in the game.
On a nightly basis, Brodin is matched up against the opposition’s best and often comes out on top. He does this by reading the play and getting into the right position to succeed. Whether it’s pinching in the offensive zone or back-checking to support his defensive partner and limit rush opportunities, he’s always in the right spot. Despite not being the most fleet of foot, he finds ways to get into skating lanes and cut off angles to the net.
On top of his high level of on-ice awareness, Brodin has the physical attributes to excel at both ends of the ice. His hand-eye coordination and ability to use his skates make it tough for opponents to get past him on open ice. He also has an advantage when it comes to keeping the puck in play and battles along the boards. It’s subtle, but his style of game has a huge impact on the Wild’s success in all three zones. This effectiveness has not only been measured by his box score stats but also his Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
Here’s the defenceman WAR leaderboard (March 28): pic.twitter.com/9KFD6ESTuo— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 28, 2021
In terms of WAR, Brodin’s level of play is comparable to some of the NHL’s best blueliners this season. While he might not be as adept on the power play as others, he makes up for it with what he does at 5v5 and on the penalty kill. Minnesota is deep defensively, but without Brodin to take on the tough match-ups, the season would go south quickly.
Whatever happens in the future, the Wild can take comfort in the fact that Brodin is here to stay. His 7-year contract extension includes a no-movement clause which ensures he will be protected during the expansion draft. This is good news for Brodin, but not for his longtime defensive partner Matt Dumba. Dumba might be on the move this offseason, so Brodin will need to get acclimated to playing without a skater as talented as the Regina native. This could off-set his current trajectory, and we should expect him to stay on track. Minnesota thinks he can do it, and they are paying him handsomely for it.
Many of the Wild are in the midst of career-high seasons, so it would be a stretch to suggest that Brodin can continue to produce offensively at this level. Still, expecting him to regularly score nearly 30 points per season for the rest of his prime is reasonable. Combine this with his world-class play defensively, and you have one of the best defenders in the league. It’s impossible to say for certain, but his style of game and attention to detail suggests that he will succeed with the Wild for years to come.
The data in this article comes from Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference.