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  • Jonas Brodin Is (Somehow) Still Underappreciated

    Aaron Propson

    If you ask Minnesota Wild fans who the most underrated player on the team is, they will probably say it's Jonas Brodin. Almost anyone who watches most of the games would come to that conclusion. The smooth-skating, shutdown Swede doesn't nearly get enough league-wide attention as he should. For years, he has provided stability and consistency on a Wild blueline that has been one of the best in the league for his entire career. By all accounts, he is an elite defender in the NHL. He will not wow you with his offensive ability, nor does he need to. His skating, awareness, and defensive positioning make him one of the premier shutdown defensemen in the game.


    When the Wild bought out Ryan Suter, it meant more minutes and quality of competition for Brodin. Suter averaged just over 27 minutes a game during his career in Minnesota. Replacing him was never going to be an easy feat. How has Wild management gone about addressing this? They signed Alex Goligoski, Jon Merrill, and Dmitry Kulikov to one-year deals. Goligoski has been serviceable, and Merrill and Kulikov have formed a better-than-expected partnership on the third pairing. Most importantly, Minnesota is getting Norris-caliber performances from Jonas Brodin every night.


    Wild fans do not need to be told just how great he truly is. We've known this since he joined the team as a 19-year-old in 2012.


    He's managed to make defending look easy throughout his career. First and foremost, he is a gifted skater, one of the best in the league. He may not be as fast as Connor McDavid, Mathew Barzal, or some of the other speed demons in the NHL. But he's fast enough to keep up with them. Of course, this is a valuable skill to have as a defenseman. It allows him to win puck races, get involved in the offense, and make defensive recoveries.



    Brodin reads the game brilliantly. His defensive anticipation is second to none, and he's often breaking up passes with well-timed stick checks. The same can be said for his shot-blocking ability, a valuable asset for any defenseman. He's always been a go-to penalty killer for the Wild, and he isn't afraid to do whatever it takes to make his goalie's life easier.



    He has never produced at the rate of other top blueliners in the league, but Brodin's career possession numbers speak for themselves. He's only had two seasons with an even-strength high-danger chance rate below 50%, both during his first four seasons. The same goes for expected goals rate.


    His development into a defensive stalwart has been a pleasure to watch. He is easily one of the most underappreciated players in the league. It's a shame that 18th is the highest he's even finished in Norris voting. That feels disrespectful to a player of his quality. If there were an award for the best defensive defenseman, Brodin and Carolina's Jaccob Slavin would be at the top of the list.



    Brodin's impact on the Wild was evident during a disastrous December road trip which saw the Wild drop consecutive games to the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights. Brodin didn't play those two games due to an upper-body injury, and the Wild looked lost on the back end without him. Matt Dumba had one of his worst games of the season against the Kings, and the Wild saw their eight-game win streak snapped in a 2-1 defeat.




    It was a similar story against Vegas. Minnesota was thoroughly out-chanced and generally outplayed. Vegas dominated possession, generating 19 high-quality chances to the Wild's 9. Brodin's absence was notable, as the Wild blueline played more conservatively than we're accustomed to seeing from them. Poor outings from the entire team? Sure. But having the reliable and sturdy Brodin in the lineup would've gone a long way.




    The upper-body injury has fully healed, but Brodin was placed into the NHL's COVID-19 protocol early Tuesday morning. If asymptomatic, he will have to test negative for COVID on consecutive days to clear protocol. That protocol took Brodin out of the Winter Classic, and the Wild sorely missed him there. Minnesota trailed St. Louis in scoring chances by a 17-3 margin at the end of the second period. Without Brodin (and Jared Spurgeon), no one was moving the puck up the ice or stopping Jordan Kyrou from scoring. A quick return to play for Brodin will be urgent for the Wild.


    The NHL schedule is being affected by COVID daily, but the Wild have games scheduled against the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, and Edmonton Oilers scheduled early in the new year. It sure would be nice to have Brodin against McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Alex Ovechkin, and Boston's Perfection Line.


    Kirill Kaprizov is Minnesota's best player, but no player is more crucial to this team's success than Brodin. He may not get the same national recognition as other of the league's best blueliners, but Minnesota fans know just how impactful he is on the ice. He is an elite player in this league, and he should be in consideration for the Norris Trophy come NHL award season.

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