By Mick Hatten
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — One of the events would have been a life-changer for Jonny Brodzinski, but he had three … in a span of 48 hours.
The 26-year-old former St. Cloud State University and Blaine High School standout forward signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks and he and his wife, Lauren, bought a house in Andover, Minn., and found out they are expecting their first child in February.
“It was a wild week,” he said. “All exciting stuff.”
On the hockey side of his life, Brodzinski signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Sharks on July 2nd. That finalized his departure from the Los Angeles Kings organization, which drafted him in the fifth round (148th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Between the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League and the Kings, Brodzinski was limited to 16 games last season after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the preseason that required surgery to repair. He missed six months of the season as he went through rehabilitation for the injury.
“It was a really bad time to get injured,” said Brodzinski, who suffered the injury on Sept. 24 in a game against the Vancouver Canucks in Salt Lake City, Utah. “It was tough because I knew the opportunity that I had in front of me. They were going to put me in a high role with the team, something I’ve worked my whole career to get to. After four years, finally getting the opportunity and we were just about finished with training camp when I got hurt.”
He said the injury happened when he got checked into the boards and was going in head first. Brodzinski said he put his arm up to lessen the impact and dislocated his shoulder.
“I’ve been pretty healthy throughout my hockey career and it’s really the only major injury I’ve had,” said Brodzinski, who played junior hockey for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League from 2010-12. “I broke my thumb my second year in the pros in the (AHL) playoffs, but I only missed two games. This was the longest time I had missed.”
Brodzinski did say that there was a positive that came out of the injury, though.
“I was in the best shape of my career after the injury. I’ve never been in that good a shape,” he said. “Monday through Saturday, I was working on a different agility, stickhandling and skating drills, stuff that you don’t get to do throughout the season.
“I was doing board-and-backs (skating) for 3 1/2 months. When I came back, I felt like I could skate forever and not be tired.”
Brodzinski returned on Feb. 25 and scored a goal against Tampa Bay in his first game back from the injury. He had two goals and an assist in 13 games with the Kings and scored a goal and played in three games with Ontario in the AHL last season.
“At the end of the season, the Kings told me that they were not going to sign me and so I went into free agency,” he said. “San Jose was the first one to contact me and they were really interested right away. They told me that they were going to draft me in one more pick if L.A. hadn’t, so me and Michael would have been picked by the same team in the same round. So this was a long time coming and they’re really excited to have me there.”
Michael Brodzinski is Jonny’s 24-year-old brother, a defenseman who played for the University of Minnesota and spent the last four seasons in the Sharks organization. But the pair will not have a chance to be teammates for the first time since high school because on July 25, Michael signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Belleville Senators of the American Hockey League.
Jonny turned pro after three seasons at St. Cloud State. With the Huskies, he had 64 goals and 112 points in 120 games and was named to the All-NCHC First Team as a junior in 2014-15.
He signed with the Kings after the college season, but did not get in a game. Brodzinski spent most of the next two seasons with Ontario before making his NHL debut on March 25, 2017.
He has six goals and five assists in 54 career games in the NHL and 56 goals and 108 points in 156 regular season games in the AHL with the Reign, who were coached by Mike Stothers each of the past four seasons.
“I had a lot of great teammates and a great coach in Ontario in Mike Stothers,” Brodzinski said. “It was a great spot for me to grow as a professional.
“It’s totally different than college hockey because of the body maintenance. It’s so grueling on your body in the pro game that you have to pay attention to that. In college, you focus up for three days in a week. In the professional game, you can have three games in three days and then have a game on Tuesday and Thursday.”
The game in the NHL has also changed, he said. At St. Cloud State, he played at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds. He played last season at 208 and for a reason.
“It helps me be a little bit quicker and harder on my edges (of my skates) and to control everything a little bit better,” Brodzinski said. “(The NHL’s) becoming more of a skill league, though there’s still a lot of hits and that’s definitely not going away.
“But it has turned into a higher-skilled game and there are guys playing at 170 (pounds) who couldn’t back in the day because they’d get injured. I’m more of a shot-first player, so I’ve had to adapt to a quicker release and being comfortable with uncomfortable shots and I have to work harder to get to open spots.
“You don’t get many opportunities to get shots on net at this level and to be able to use my best asset, I’ve got to work a lot harder.”
Brodzinski said he is working out in Eagan, Minn., with former St. Cloud State players Kevin Gravel and Mikey Eyssimont during the week and is also playing in Da Beauty League. Da Beauty is a 4-on-4 league of pro and college players who play games from July 10-Aug. 21 in Edina, Minn.
He’s enjoying playing in that league as he prepares to join a new organization.
“I really want to get a good role with San Jose and prove that I belong in the NHL and I want to have a long career in the NHL,” Brodzinski said. “I want to help this team win a Stanley Cup.”
Gophers/Huskies Brodzinski battle 2
Jonny and Michael Brodzinski played four games against one another in college. Michael’s Gophers won three of the four games, which included plenty of trash talking between the brothers leading up to the matchups.
Their two younger brothers, Easton and Bryce, could play one another this season — Easton will be a junior forward for St. Cloud State and Bryce will be a freshman forward for Minnesota. The two teams will play in the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis on Dec. 28-29.
In the first round on Dec. 28, St. Cloud State plays Minnesota State-Mankato and Bemidji State plays the Gophers. The two winners of those games and two losers of those games will play one another on Dec. 29.
“It’s pretty crazy to have all four of us play Division I hockey, pretty special,” Jonny said. “My dad (Mike) played at Minnesota and St. Cloud State, so it’s pretty cool that we’ve played at those two schools.
“My brothers are already talking about it,” he said of the potential matchup this season.
Easton Brodzinski has 30 goals and 53 points in 77 career college games for the Huskies, who have won back-to-back NCHC regular season titles. Easton, 22, will be the team’s top returning goal scorer (16 in 2018-19) this season.
Bryce Brodzinski, 18, was taken in the seventh round (196th overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Bryce was named Mr. Hockey in Minnesota, USA Today’s Boys Hockey Player of the Year and its Boys Athlete of the Year. Bryce had 36 goals and 91 points in 29 games for Blaine last season, leading the Bengals to third place in the Class AA state tournament. He also had seven goals and 17 points in 19 junior hockey games with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League.