ST. PAUL, Minn. — As he skated by the Minnesota Wild bench, in the typical fashion following a goal, Jonas Brodin got a few fist bumps, per usual, but also got some taps on the top of his head from his excited teammates.
Minnesota’s veterans were happy for the 19-year-old rookie scoring his first NHL goal.
Brodin has been as steady as they come on the defensive end in his rookie season, playing well beyond his years as the youngest current defenseman in the NHL. He’s paired with Ryan Suter to give the Wild a top-notch, shutdown defensive pairing and showed the unique skill, skating and smarts that made him the 10th-overall pick by Minnesota in the 2011 draft.
Finally, in his 23rd NHL game, Brodin has his first goal.
“About time,” Suter joked. “He has a good shot.”
Brodin has the puck-moving skills to contribute offensively and his wrist shot that beat Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov Thursday showed a glimpse of possible future scoring touch, but Brodin’s biggest impact is on the defensive side. He’s already being touted by teammates as a possible Calder Trophy candidate for rookie of the year, while many lament he might not get the recognition he deserves without bigger numbers to back him up.
Brodin, called up at the end of January after recovering from a broken clavicle while playing for the Houston Aeros in the American Hockey League, has one goal and three assists. His plus-2 effort Thursday put him at even for the year. But numbers aren’t doing justice to Brodin’s impact on the Wild.
His teammates see it every day, just like captain Mikko Koivu, who made sure to approach Brodin in the locker room and congratulate him on the goal.
“Goal is a goal, especially for a defenseman; it either comes or it doesn’t,” Koivu said. “That’s not the way you look at their game. I think its overall, and the way he’s handling himself defensively and obviously he’s only going to get stronger. If he just stays healthy, he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
Brodin is still the quiet rookie in the locker room. He made the move to North America this year after playing for Farjestads in the Swedish Elite League last season and is well used to playing with players much older than him. He helped Sweden win a gold medal in the 2012 World Junior Championships in 2012 and later played on Sweden’s 2012 World Championships team. With Brodin, Sweden earned a silver in the 2011 World Juniors.
“It took a while to get my first goal, but I’m just happy the team won,” Brodin said. “We played a good game tonight.”
Minnesota threw Brodin right into the fire this season, pairing him with Suter after just a few games in a tandem that could last for years.
“Sky’s the limit, I say it every day,” Suter said. “He’s a good player, he’s quiet and he’s going to continue to get better.”
And as he develops, the Wild think the offense will come along as well.
“He’s got that ability,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s going to continue to get better defensively, but it’s hard to say how much better he can get. But having said that, (offense) is a part of his game that it’s a matter of time before that continues to evolve because he’s got the skill. He’s got the poise, he’s got the intelligence, and a lot of it, I think, is just confidence. It was good to see him get rewarded.”
Now about that getting him noticed for the Calder Trophy.