LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Jonas Brodin went all the way to Buffalo last year and he didn't even get a T-shirt out of it.
Brodin played in two exhibition games for Team Sweden prior to the 2011 World Junior Championship, but was left off the final roster prior to the start of the tournament, and had to follow the event from home as Sweden finished fourth.
Being so close motivated the 6-foot-1, 166-pound defenseman to improve his game, and he's done that to the point where he might be Sweden's most important player at the position heading into the 2012 WJC.
"We have different kind of defensemen, but he's definitely one of my best right now," coach Roger Ronnberg told NHL.com. "He's really a true quarterback out there. He's really leading his unit every time.
"He's smart with the puck but he's also really smart without the puck. He can shut down players and play the PK. He's a good overall defenseman."
Brodin had a goal and an assist Thursday in Sweden's 8-4 defeat of Finland. Through four games here at this week's junior evaluation camp, he has 2 goals and 4 assists.
"We got lots of good (defensemen), but I think he's the one with the most talent," teammate Max Friberg told NHL.com. "He's a great player."
Added Sweden captain Johan Larsson: "If you look out there, he's dominant. He's so smart, he's so good. So good with the puck. … It looks like now he's our best defenseman. He's really important. He's really good on the power play and good in the (penalty kill) box, playing 5-on-5."
Brodin felt he didn't play his best game Thursday, but overall he rated the experience here a good one.
"When I play with Farjestad (in Swedish Elite League), I play with men and I don't play power play," he told NHL.com. "But when I come here with the national team, I play power play, (penalty kill), get more ice time. I like to play power play. It's good."
It's certainly better than last year, when he came so close to making the team.
The snub motivated him, and while he finished his season in Farjestad with just 4 assists in 42 games, he had 2 goals in 14 playoff games. Not bad for a 17-year-old playing limited time against grown men.
The Minnesota Wild certainly liked what they saw, and selected him with the 10th pick of the 2011 Entry Draft.
"Jonas Brodin is an elite-skating defenseman," said Wild Assistant GM Brent Flahr. "He's got really good puck-moving ability, really thinks the game well. He played in Farjestad on a championship team in the Swedish Elite League, played regularly for most of the year, and that's a huge step for a young player. To see his composure and sense, his natural ability to play the game ...
"I was over there watching in the championship series against Adam Larsson and those players, and he really played well. Then he joined the Under-18 team with Sweden partway through the tournament and really helped them out and got to the final game. He's a terrific skater and has a terrific mind for the game."
The Wild also wasted little time getting Brodin signed, agreeing to a three-year, entry-level contract that was signed July 12 -- Brodin's 18th birthday.
"It was a fantastic feeling," he said of signing his first NHL contract. "It was a dream come true. It's every guy's dream to sign an NHL contract."
Brodin will spend at least another season in Farjestad, where the goal is to add some muscle, which hopefully will improve a shot that already looks pretty good. He'll also see more ice time in his second season with Farjestad.
"Realistically, he needs to get physically stronger," Flahr told the Wild's website. "He's going to a very good program, a very good team. He'll play more this year and it will be a good place to develop. He'll hopefully get a chance to play over here during the world juniors. It should be a real good year for him. Hopefully he can come to camp next year and compete for a position."
The world juniors also is something that's on Brodin's mind. He said a spot on the team that will go to Calgary and Edmonton in December will be a driving force for him the first half of the season. But barring injury, he already has a spot locked up.
"I have problems with seeing something else," said Ronnberg. "Jonas is so good, and he's not just a skill guy. He also competes every night and he's going to be important player for this team."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK