There’s something different about Jonas Brodin.
Teammates call the Wild defenseman “The Wizard” because of the smooth way he can skate, the way he can turn, leave opponents in his dust and get pucks out of trouble, the way he always seems to have his stick in the right spot.
But off the ice, too.
“Everything he does, he just does it different,” goalie Darcy Kuemper said with a loud laugh.
“Just watch how he does little things. I mean, he drinks his water elbow up. Who does that? He just doesn’t do anything like anyone else. And you can’t tell if he’s trying to be funny or if he’s serious.”
A month after being drafted 10th overall in the 2011 draft, Brodin signed his entry-level contract on his 18th birthday. He spent another season in his native Sweden, but after the NHL lockout ended in 2013, the Wild had a shortened training camp, so Brodin started in Houston.
But three games into the Wild’s season, Jared Spurgeon was injured, the left-shot Brodin was called up, thrown onto his off side as Ryan Suter’s partner in Detroit, and he has never left.
“I feel like it was yesterday that I came up here,” Brodin said, before adding with a chuckle, “but I still feel young.”
Now 23 and in his fifth full season — with 284 regular-season games and 34 playoff games under his belt — the onion is being peeled back on the guy teammates say is a “goofball” and “absolutely hilarious.”
He lives in the same downtown Minneapolis building as teammates Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter.
A fan of rap music, nice clothes and video games, Brodin does his best not to show his comical side publicly.
He just smiles when his sense of humor is brought up.
“I think it’s just how he came up in Sweden, and he stays stuck in his ways,” said Dumba, who often speaks to Brodin in Swedish and is suddenly his defense partner after Folin sprained a knee. “Brods still loves watching his Swedish TV, likes the rap culture and picks up the funniest little sayings.”
In 2013, Brodin was the youngest defenseman in the NHL at age 19. Countryman Adam Larsson, now in Edmonton, was drafted fourth overall, but many scouts felt Larsson wasn’t even the best defenseman in his country. Brodin led all rookies in 2013 in average ice time (23 minutes, 12 seconds per game), and Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher publicly criticized the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association when Brodin wasn’t named a Calder Trophy finalist.
In Brodin’s second year, Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman compared the way Brodin defended to seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, saying, “He doesn’t have a gap. He doesn’t back up at all, and that’s the way the good ones are.”
Up and down
Brodin had a career-high eight goals and 19 points in 2013-14, then set a rookie defenseman Wild record in 2014-15 by being plus-21. But offensively, he took a step back, and last season, in the first year of a six-year, $25 million deal, he was uncharacteristically inconsistent. He scored two goals and five assists in 68 games, was minus-5 and was prone to turnovers.
But this season, in the first year under the new coaching staff that includes Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens, Brodin has been a two-way force.
“I felt I had a good summer,” Brodin said. “I came in strong and in good shape, and being on the power play, too, it brings your confidence up. I’m shooting the puck a lot more than the last couple years.”
Averaging 20 minutes a game, Brodin was a shutdown pair with Folin, ate up big minutes against top opposing lines and lately is chipping in offensively. His 10 points in 21 games already are more than he had in 47 more games last season.
“Ever since he switched to Warrior sticks, we’ve been calling him the ‘Shot King,’ because he’s been hot,” Dumba said.
Added Niederreiter, “I remember the first year when I got traded here, I knew right away he was going to be a really good player. He’s very respected in the locker room. He takes a lot of pride in his defense, but we all feel he can let the offense take over, too, and he is.”
A new fan
Brodin said the previous coaching staff did nothing to inhibit him offensively. He just looks at this as a good start, and with that, he has got, as coach Bruce Boudreau says, “brimming confidence.”
In a league full of great Swedish defensemen, Boudreau loves what he’s seeing from Brodin.
“He’s certainly playing an awful lot like what I had heard he was when he first came over here as an 18-year-old,” Boudreau said. “I didn’t know he was mobile as he is and could skate like he does.”
Boudreau instantly noticed how fluid Brodin was in training camp during the occasions he “turned with the puck and started going up the ice with speed and didn’t seem to lose anything with the turn.”
Stevens had paid close attention to Brodin since his time as a coach in New Jersey because the Devils selected Larsson in the same draft class. He’s not taking any credit for the improved Brodin.
“I just leave him alone. He’s doing everything well,” Stevens said. “There’s not a lot to say. He actually just keeps getting better as the season goes along. He gets more confidence, making the right play and it’s nice to see him having some offensive production.”
With Christian Folin out because of a sprained knee, the Wild recalled defenseman Gustav Olofsson from Iowa of the AHL.