Jonas Brodin, left, of Sweden, vies for control of the puck, during the first period of an IIHF U18 Hockey World Championship game.
Sergei Grits, Associated Press
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Wild rookie Brodin makes whirlwind trip to the top
- Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT
- Star Tribune
- January 25, 2013 - 6:42 AM
It didn't take long for Jonas Brodin to make his first rookie faux pas. Standing at his locker after Thursday's practice, just hours after being called up from Houston, the young Wild defenseman was being playfully scolded by teammate Zenon Konopka for forgetting to bring him coffee.
That wasn't surprising, even for a wunderkind such as Brodin. On Wednesday night he returned to the lineup of the Wild's AHL affiliate after sitting out 11 weeks because of a broken clavicle. On Thursday morning he was skating alongside Clayton Stoner in the Wild's practice at Xcel Energy Center, then packing his bag for the team's first road trip of the season.
Wild coach Mike Yeo said the odds are good that Brodin, 19, will make his NHL debut in Friday's game at Detroit. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon is expected to make the trip, but on Thursday he missed his second practice because of a sore foot. Matt Dumba, who had been the spare defenseman, remains with the team, although indications are he'll return to his junior team in Red Deer, Alberta, eventually.
Despite the whirlwind of the past two days, Konopka's neglected coffee seemed to be the only misstep for Brodin. The Wild's top pick in the 2011 NHL draft appeared comfortable in practice -- if a bit shy when facing the media crowding around his locker -- and impressed his new teammates with his maturity. Though he had been concentrating on getting healthy and getting back into the Houston lineup, Brodin was delighted at his sudden elevation to the Wild roster.
"I'm glad to be here,'' said Brodin, who had two goals and two assists in nine games with Houston this season. "I don't know if I'm going to play, but if they say so, I'm ready.''
Stoner seemed to think so, too, based on what he saw Thursday. Brodin is an excellent skater and passer who can jump into the offense with ease. Yet Stoner noted he also is a poised and intelligent player who knows his position well, giving him the defensive soundness to be dependable on both ends of the ice.
The Wild got a glimpse of Brodin's impressive skill set during training camp, when he held his own against the likes of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. He also played for Sweden in the 2012 world championships and for two seasons in Sweden's elite league, gaining experience against older, high-level players.
Brodin's skill set has been compared to that of Niklas Lidstrom, but Yeo cautioned against unrealistic expectations. Brodin still is developing physically, and he is adapting to the cultural changes of his first year in North America, as well as to the escalation in the competition he is facing.
"The ceiling is very high,'' Yeo said of the 6-1, 180-pound Brodin. "When you see the way he skates, his composure with the puck, he can do things at a very, very high level. But this is a young player coming in, just coming back off an injury. We have to give him enough time to get adjusted to the league and the pace of the game and playing against the world's best players.''
Ready to go
Brodin said that despite the long layoff because of his injury, his conditioning was better than he expected in Wednesday's game with Houston. Yeo doesn't expect fitness to be an issue if Brodin plays Friday, but he mentioned that Brodin will be playing against stronger, better players at a faster clip, which will be tiring. Brodin is likely to be paired with Stoner if he plays.
As much as he hopes that will happen, Brodin said even Thursday's practice felt like a dream. If he does make the lineup Friday, he said he must focus on playing exactly as he did in Houston and in Sweden, guarding against getting caught up in the enormity of his first NHL game.
Just as Konopka initiated Brodin in the locker room, Stoner did the same on the ice Thursday, helping his young teammate understand the details of the Wild system. Making Brodin feel welcome and comfortable will allow him to perform at his best, Stoner said -- something he's excited to see.
"He's the total package,'' Stoner said. "He brings smarts, he can make plays and he can play on the power play. He's also smart in the D-zone; I don't think he will be overly aggressive, but I think he's going to be in the right position at the right time.
"He's a very composed player, very mature for his age. I know he's going to be a big part of this team, this year and in the future.''
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