The speedy, slick handed winger was probably the last player on the minds of Red Wing fans on July 1st.
He could just end up being the rookie of the year, although he won’t be eligible for the Calder, since he is already 26. Damien Brunner is due to arrive in Detroit next week to start skating with his new Red Wing teammates. Brunner led the Swiss-A League last year in scoring with 60 points in only 45 games. Yes, we all know the Swiss league’s talent pool is not as rich as the NHL. You might also argue that it is easier to score goals on a larger ice surface as well. Trust me, scouts had this in the back of their minds at the World Hockey Championships over the summer.
Mike Babcock was one of those scouts. He sat in the stands and watched Brunner record a point per game, the same average as Red Wing forward Valtteri Filppula with Finland. During the US vs. Swiss game, Brunner even setup a teammate to score on Jimmy Howard. Brunner definitely held his own while playing against NHL players. After this tournament, he was on every team’s radar. He could have went anywhere, but he decided to sign with the Detroit Red Wings.
With all of this said, there is still no guarantee that Brunner will be a top six forward in Detroit, as many have speculated. The nice thing about him is that he is on a two-way contract immune to the waiver system, which basically nullifies all risk.
He will start his NHL journey next week on smaller ice. If he can adjust to the North American rink and it’s physical play, he could end up being the “steal” of the offseason.