For one reason above all, Jonny Brodzinski merits mention among LA's top prospects.
Nelson Emerson, Kings Director of Player Development, elaborates:
"Glen Murray, who was a goal scorer at the NHL level, gets really excited when he sees Jonny’s release and his ability to shoot...he has an elite-level release." (LAKings.com)
This twitchy trigger netted 64 goals over three years, and Brodzy departed St. Cloud State third in Huskies history in goals per game (0.53). He also holds the school record for career shots per game (3.56).
So we know he's both a proficient and prolific shooter. Then what stands in the way between Brodzinski and a successful NHL career? For that, and more, I spoke with Chris Dilks, Managing Editor of SBN College Hockey.
Brodzinski entered 2014-15 as a favorite for the Hobey Baker. By that estimation, he had something of a disappointing season, as he fell short of being even a top-10 Hobey finalist. Dilks, however, was quick to defend him:
"He was...on a team that just didn't score much. There wasn't the type of talent surrounding Brodzinski to allow St. Cloud State to be a high-scoring team.
"Knowing that they weren't going to outscore teams, St. Cloud State tried to be a more defensive-minded team."
Dilks wasn't kidding, as the Huskies scored 27 less goals in '14-15 than they did the year before. They even shifted Brodzinski from winger to center mid-season, so their best player could handle more defensive responsiblities. Head Coach Bob Motzko was pleased with the results, comparing him favorably to former SCSU two-way star and current Kings prospect Nic Dowd:
"[Brodzinski's] blood runs one way: It's for scoring goals and being offensive. We asked him to go into a center position and take over a Nic Dowd role, where he's defensively responsible...I told him 'It might hurt your points a little bit' but he doesn't bat an eye at that.
"He wants to run and gun, but now he's putting the team on his back as a leader. He's played center now for 10 games and he's doing an excellent job shutting people down." (SBN College Hockey)
Dilks puts Brodzinski's sacrifice in perspective:
"So he didn't have the type of individual success one might have hoped for, but his team had more success because of it. The Huskies made it into the NCAA Tournament, which was probably an over-achievement for the talent they had."
So Jonny was able to grow as an all-around player, all the while maintaining his productivity:
|Year||Team Goals||Brodzinski's Goals||Brodzinski's % of Team Goals|
However, evaluating that table, one might notice how alarmingly consistent Brodzinski has been throughout his career, potting almost exactly the same amount of goals each season. I say "alarmingly" because shouldn't the 22-year-old have enjoyed some kind of breakout campaign by now? Dilks claims it's no cause for concern:
"His production did plateau over his three years, but it plateaued at a pretty high mark. It's worth remembering that when he scored 33 points as a freshman, he did so playing on a line with Hobey Baker winner Drew LeBlanc, who was a tremendous passer and drew a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
"There was some question heading into Brodzinski's second year if he could maintain that production without LeBlanc, so for him to stay on that level the next two seasons, especially when he started to become the number-one priority of the opposing defense is impressive. The other thing to remember is that because college hockey is so low-scoring, there's just not much room for improvement once you hit about a point per game."
There is, however, one area where Brodzy broke out, and it's not necessarily a positive: His PIMs tripled from 16 to 49. But once again, Dilks isn't worried:
"I don't think the increase in penalties is a huge cause for concern. It was more likely cause of him focusing so much more on the defensive end and being a little bit more engaged in the play than he has in the past. One concern about him prior to coming to St. Cloud State was that at times, he could be a little too laid back as a player. He's probably never going to be what people consider an 'edgy' player, but adding a little more physical element to his game is probably a good thing."
This is something to monitor throughout Brodzinski's debut with the Ontario Reign. Speaking of which, will he try center this fall? Dilks puts in his two cents:
"He'll definitely be a wing at the next level."
Emerson, of course, has the last word:
"We feel he is a winger. He has the ability to get open, put pucks on the net, and let the centerman find him."
Wing would be the best place to maximize Brodzinski's NHL-caliber cannon. But is the rest of his game up to snuff yet? Dilks indicates what we should look for in the coming years:
"The biggest question mark for Brodzinski has always been his skating. He's really improved in that area and by last season, I'd say his speed was average to good at the college level, but obviously it's a big step up to the pro level.
"He has the potential to score some goals with his tremendous shot...It will just be a matter of him being able to handle the pace of play at the pro level."
Could that be...good news?
Recently, Los Angeles has enjoyed tremendous success transforming amateur forwards with so-so skating ability into NHL top-sixers. Here are snippets from 2012 scouting reports about two Kings prospects:
"...has always been a below-average skater. " (Hockey Prospectus)
"...skating is his most notable weakness, as he's clearly below average in that area with a heavy first few steps."
Would you believe that Corey Pronman was writing respectively about Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson? You can't teach size, you can't teach skill, but apparently, the Kings believe you can teach skating.
Mike O'Connell, Kings Senior Advisor, thinks that Brodzinski has the makeup to pull it off:
"He works hard at his craft and where he needs to be...He has good sized legs, good stability, good center of gravity...
"All facets of his game have improved. There is no reason to ever think that that is not going to continue."
The more suitable question for most Los Angeles forward prospects is, "Can he be the next Dwight King or Jordan Nolan?" But with Brodzinski, it's fair to ask, "Can he be the next Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson?"