While Minnesota fell 5-3 to the defensively struggling Red Wings last night in Detroit, Jonas Brodin looked sharp in his NHL debut. The young 6’1” 180-pound Swedish blue-liner played 19:05 of game action, notching an assist on a goal by Tom Gilbert and playing with the confidence and poise of a seasoned veteran defenseman. In fact, Brodin may very well have been the Wild’s best defenseman on the ice.
Minnesota fans got a glimpse of just how good this kid could be after he spun away from the Wings’ Valtteri Filppula on his very first NHL shift. Almost every aspect of his game is elite-caliber: his skating, the way he defends, the way he moves the puck up the ice, the way he sees the play develop and just his overall hockey sense in general. What has come as a surprise to many Wild fans is the offense the young man brings to the ice. Brodin’s first NHL point came on a play where the young defenseman chipped the puck past Devin Setoguchi down to Mikael Granlund in the corner, who then put the puck on the tape of Gilbert stepping up in the slot, who then rifled it past goaltender Jimmy Howard into the back of the net.
Brodin is known as a good two-way, puck moving defenseman that leans toward a shutdown defensive role. However, his offensive instincts were certainly evident in his NHL debut as he not only notched an assist, but he also fired in two shots on goal from the blue line. Wild fans need to get used to hearing the surprisingly heavy “clap” of his slap shot, because they’ll be hearing it a lot more often in the near future. As Michael Russo of the Star Tribune said in his post-game wrap up last night, Brodin is certainly much better in the offensive zone than we’ve seen at development camp.
With the injuries to Minnesota’s blue line, it’s hard not to believe that Jonas Brodin is here to stay. Jared Spurgeon will probably be back sooner than later, but Brodin has likely just played his way into Minnesota’s top four defenders. In the meantime, Marco Scandella has resumed play with the Houston Aeros, but will likely end the season in a Wild sweater. Minnesota’s 7th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Mathew Dumba, will remain with the team for the near future, but will likely be sent back to Red Deer of the Western Hockey League once either Spurgeon or Scandella returns to the Wild lineup. This will be good for his development, as the Wild brass don’t want to see him hampered by being rushed into the NHL. Brodin’s exceptional play only benefits Dumba, as it gives him time to mature into the No. 1 impact defenseman he was drafted to be.
While Minnesota’s defense may be in a transition period at the moment, the pieces are in place for a very solid defensive corps for years to come. Paired with a great group of forwards—and a rock solid future in the crease—Minnesota’s defense is dressed for success and will be so for a long, long time. Now the last question that remains to be answered: did Brodin get Zenon Konopka his coffee yesterday morning? For the kid’s sake, I hope so.