COLOGNE, Germany — Jonas Brodin would rather be wearing a Minnesota Wild jersey right now, playing for the Stanley Cup.
Since that’s not possible, he’s doing the next best thing. Brodin is playing for Sweden in the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
Following the conclusion of the Wild’s first-round defeat in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Brodin decided to pull on another jersey he’s proud to wear — Sweden’s “Tres Kronors,” sweater, which has the famed three crowns logo on the front.
“I just felt like we had a tough ending to our season back in Minnesota,” said Brodin, who had an assist in five playoff games against the St. Louis Blues and finished the regular season with three goals and 25 points. “We had a really good season and then it ended early in the playoffs, so I felt like I just wanted to keep playing hockey.”
It’s the second time Brodin has played for Sweden in the world championship, after participating the first time in 2012. He also played in the IIHF World Junior Championship three times (2010, 2011 and 2012).
Adding another line item to his international career resume was an easy decision.
“I was really happy when they called me,” said Brodin, who has a goal in Sweden’s first three preliminary games. “When they asked me to come here, I said, ‘Yes,’ right away, because it’s an honor to play for Sweden.”
It’s about more than just national pride, though. For Brodin, it’s also about status, as one of Sweden’s six NHL defensemen in this tournament. Looking at the Swedish defense corps is like looking at a veritable all-star lineup of blueliners.
Brodin is playing alongside Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The other four are John Klingberg (Dallas Stars), Alexander Edler (Vancouver Canucks), Anton Stralman (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Victor Hedman (Lightning).
Hedman and Stralman form the top pairing, while Brodin and Ekman-Larsson are the next over the boards for coach Rikard Gronberg, who’s coached Brodin in international competition dating back to the world juniors.
The difference in Brodin from then to now is unmistakable to Gronberg. He’s matured the past five seasons in the NHL and will play another two before turning 25.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Jonas several times,” Gronberg said. “He’s a solid, dependable two-way defender now, and you can tell how much he’s improved just from seeing the little details he’s added to his game. He knows where to go with the puck, especially on outlet passes from the defensive zone, and that only comes with experience. He has that now, so he should be a name you heard for years to come, not only in the NHL but also for Sweden.”
The next step for Brodin, other than helping the Wild keep advancing in the playoffs, is continuing to improve his offensive output. Playing with Ekman-Larsson, one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, can only help.
“He’s really good,” Brodin said. “It’s really fun to play with him. He helps me a lot. I feel like we’re kind of the same player, but he’s better offensively. He’s a lot better than me offensively, getting points and stuff like that, but we’ve got a good chemistry together.”
Sweden will lean on that type of chemistry the rest of the tournament.
Sweden went 1-2 in its first three preliminary games of Pool B, which is being hosted at Lanxess Arena in Cologne. The losses, to Russia in a shootout and 4-3 against the United States, have put the Swedes in a challenging spot heading into the final weekend of pool play.
Sweden must finish in the top four of the pool standings to advance to the quarterfinals, which would give Brodin a chance to finish his season with some hardware. Sweden lost to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal round in 2012, and Brodin’s goal this time is to win a medal.
“That’s a big thing, to medal in this tournament, especially for Sweden and all the people there,” Brodin said. “I think it’s very important and we’re going to do the best we can to get one.”