In what comes as a surprise to no one, Minnesota Wild All-Rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin has been named to Team Sweden’s Men’s National Team Orientation Camp. Whether he’ll be in a Swedish sweater come February is another thing entirely.
In addition to Brodin, seasoned NHL veterans Alexander Edler, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Niklas Kronwall, Douglas Murray, Johnny Oduya and Henrik Tallinder have also been invited. Throw in three other rising NHL stars in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman and former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and Brodin’s chances look slim. It’s a good thing Nicklas Lidstrom is retired. Ask any knowledgeable hockey fan and they’ll tell you Kronwall, Karlsson, Edler, Oduya and Murray are likely locks. It’ll take a lot to knock Hedman and Ekman-Larsson off the list, but Brodin’s exceptional play may be enough.
After his first 15 career NHL games, people we’re noticing the youngest defenseman in the NHL was playing more like 29 than 19. One of Minnesota’s two $98 million men, All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter didn’t even begin to play as good as his paycheck suggested he was until paired with Brodin. In fact, the calming effect Brodin had on the top pairing with Suter may have directly resulted in Suter’s selection as a 2012-13 Norris Finalist.
The beautiful thing about Brodin is that his skating and defensive instincts are already among the best in the league, if not the world. This goes against the traditional young defenseman coming into the league with great offensive instincts, but struggles on the defensive side of the puck. Offense can be taught–Brodin’s knack for exceptional defense is nothing short of a calling.
The best part is that Brodin doesn’t come without an offensive touch, as his shot surprised more than a few people this past season. In 45 games last season, the Swedish Sensation would notch two goals and nine assists for 11 points and a plus-3 rating and was fourth in voting for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. It was a well-deserved consolation prize when he was named to the league’s All-Rookie Team with fellow rising star blue liner Justin Schultz.
If Brodin can do all this on North American ice–a rink he is not used to–he’ll be even better on the Olympic-sized rinks of the Sochi Games. Brodin also has a lot of experience representing his country at the junior level, notching four assists in six games as he led Sweden to the 2012 WJHC gold medal with fellow Wild prospects Johan Larsson and Johan Gustafsson. The fact of the matter is that there’s nothing his selection does to hurt Team Sweden and it may even improve their blue line. Another half season of play on one of the NHL’s top defensive pairings may certainly clear up any doubts about whether or not he’s ready to represent his country on the biggest stage of the game.