Reusse: Wild stalwart Brodin plays on and on, and ever so gracefully

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Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune
·3 min read
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Mikko Koivu's longevity looks impressive at the top of the Wild's all-time list for games played. He played in St. Paul for 15 regular seasons and totaled 1,028 games.

Who is going to top that?

There's an answer: Jonas Brodin, assuming he remains an iron man defenseman, which seems probable.

Koivu was drafted sixth overall from Finland in 2001 and made his Wild debut on Nov. 5, 2005, at age 22 years, 238 days. There was a good excuse for the late arrival: The NHL missed the 2004-05 season because of an owners lockout.

Brodin was drafted 10th overall from Sweden in 2011. He made his Wild debut on Jan. 25, 2013, delayed by another owners lockout, at age 19 years, 197 days.

He's now 27 and will reach 596 games this weekend. He's played in nine regular seasons, with a rookie season shortened by 34 games and these two pandemicized seasons by a total of 39 games. Brodin had a 182-game streak stopped by COVID for two games in mid-February.

Brodin signed a seven-year, $42 million contract extension that will run through the 2027-28 season. The first four seasons include a no-trade clause. That could have been all seven and Wild fans might not do the usual grousing; that's the excellence of Brodin.

Wes Walz, now a Wild analyst, said: "The way the salary cap is right now, you have to be considered a special asset to get a long contract for $7 or $8 million. And that's how this club felt about Jonas.

"When you play at the highest level in the world, and everyone raves about your skating, including opponents, that tells you everything.

"He reminds me of Phil Housley, the way someone can have him lined up in the corner, and he can come out with the puck and not even a bump.''

Housley was much more of an offensive threat, but skating the puck out of danger was the comparison.

What's the view of Housley, now an assistant with the Arizona Coyotes?

"I don't talk other team's players, as a rule, but this year being in the same division, we've seen Brodin a lot,'' he said. "His mobility is impressive, and he seems to be joining the attack more.''

Pat Micheletti, hockey observer of many opinions, including on the Wild's post-postgame radio show, said: "Brodin's ability to skate, I don't know how you classify it. He might have the best feet in the NHL, which means the world. He's in the top five, no question.

"The play I recall is from a season opener in Colorado a while back. Nobody skates faster that Nathan MacKinnon. He was coming at 100 miles an hour, going outside, and Brodin skated over, and made it look like nothing.

"I said, 'That's elite.' Actually, way more than elite, even by P.J. Fleck's standards.''

Tom Reid, the Wild's radio analyst, said: "He's such a gifted skater that it allows him to do everything right. And with Matt Dumba as his partner, a guy who likes to take off, Jonas gets a chance to show those skills.''

Brodin is known for his quiet approach — no panic on the ice, no self-promoting off it.

"I've noticed that, when he's playing Colorado and he's matched up with MacKinnon on that off side, you can see the excitement in Jonas' eyes,'' Walz said. "He loves a challenge. I see him as a quiet warrior.''

Micheletti goes another step. "I can't recall the last time we talked about Brodin after a game,'' he said. "That's because there are so few times when he's fighting to get back into a play. He's like a ghost. He makes the play and disappears.

"We should call him 'The Ghost.' Jonas Brodin, the Ghost of the Wild.''

Walz was asked what opinion that his Wild coach, Jacques Lemaire, master of goal prevention, would hold for Brodin?

"Oh … I guarantee you,'' Walz said. "Jonas would never leave the ice.''