An extremely noteworthy rookie season followed by seven years under the radar isn’t always the NHL template.
When you consider Jonas Brodin was a Calder Trophy candidate in 2013 as a 19-year-old defensive-defenseman, fans may wonder where the Kirill Kaprizov-style players were back then. Not a knock on Brodin, but that campaign towards his fourth-place finish in rookie of the year voting was just the opposite for an astounding season put together by the young Swede. After largely escaping being mentioned in conversations of the Wild’s best players for the better part of a decade, everyone is taking notice of Brodin’s game now.
Jared Spurgeon was touted locally as one of the most underrated players in the NHL for years because, well, he was. Now he’s one of 31 captains in the league, and it would certainly be a stretch to say that he hasn’t gotten his due. The mantle has since been handed to Brodin, who makes an excellent case, especially with his elevated play this season on an already deep defensive corps.
He’s never been much of a goal scorer, which is what makes his nine goals this season noteworthy. His previous best was eight in 2013-14, which coincided with his career-high in minutes played in a season (1,888). But those nine goals this season account for nearly 25% of his career goal total over nine seasons.
How is he blowing away his goal totals in just 50 games so far this season? Just take a look at his shooting percentage. He is shooting at a rate of 12.7% so far this season, only comparable to his 2013-14 clip of 10.8%. But he didn’t have a shooting percentage higher than 3.9% in all but one other season. In addition to his raw shooting percentage, his Fenwick shooting percentage (FSh%) is nearly 9.5%, eighth-best among defensemen in the NHL.
A closer look shows he is far and away the best everyday defenseman at this rating, with only one player above him coming within 13 games played. His expected FSh%? Fifth in the league, second behind Alec Martinez of the Vegas Golden Knights if you only count regular, everyday defenders.
His season hasn’t just been good by Wild standards. It’s been one of the best seasons for a defenseman across the NHL.
Brodin likely won’t continue this pace offensively, though. Expect a mild regression in his offensive output unless his philosophy in the offensive zone has drastically shifted. What does that mean once his seven-year contract extension kicks in next year at $6 million per season? Thankfully, he’s proven to be extremely effective over his career, even when he’s not scoring.
Looking at Standing Points Above Replacement (SPAR), Brodin is 11th in the NHL across the past five seasons. He’s in good company, too. Both Spurgeon and Ryan Suter show up in the top-10 in the same time frame. It shows Brodin has been worth nearly 17 standing points through the last five seasons.
Considering everything he offers, it cannot be ignored that Brodin stands out on the ice regardless of the box score. His smooth skating gives him the ability to evade hits and get out of trouble in the defensive zone, and he’s one of the most efficient breakout passers as well. Minnesota’s transition game would be severely lacking without Brodin. Fortunately, the Wild have him locked in for another seven years, and that smooth style will keep him performing at a high level throughout the contract.
He’s always been a critical piece for the defense, but now Brodin is garnering recognition both in his own zone and on offense for how reliable a player he has become.