Damien Brunner: This Year’s Sought After European Free Agent
Every year it seems there is an undrafted free agent player from Europe who NHL teams are salivating over in an attempt to sign. This year is no different. In fact we’ve already seen one such player signed as Czech Roman Červenka signed with the Calgary Flames.
There are reports out that multiple NHL teams are after Damien Brunner, a 26 year old forward currently playing for the Swiss National team in the IIHF World Championships. Teams reportedly interested include the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Philadelphia Flyers. One can assume there are other teams interested who are trying to fly under the radar.
Brunner has been a scoring star for Zug in the Swiss Elite League, which is traditionally a low-scoring league. In 2010, he scored 58 points in 47 games. In 2011 he scored 46 points in 40 games. And this year he did something that no Swiss-born and trained player had done in 30 years – he led the Swiss league in scoring with 60 points in 45 games.
Brunner is considered undersized at 5’11″, 187 lbs (eliteprospects.com) or 5’10″ 176 (hockeydb.com), but he certainly has talent. How that will translate to the NHL is unclear, but when a player like this is available without costing NHL teams prospects, picks, or other trade assets, it certainly draws attention. Whether he flops like a Fabian Brunnstrom, or earns a regular spot in the NHL like a Raphael Diaz, remains to be seen.
Brunner is said to have very good skating, stickhandling, and an NHL-level shot and release. In the World Championships he’s shown an ability to create offence against NHL caliber defencemen, and has clearly been Switzerland’s best player. Despite his size he’s shown an ability to play a gritty game and to get to the front of the net. From all indications, he is a capable two-way player, which will greatly help him to make the NHL even if he needs some time to find his offence.
You can check out Brunner’s slick-hands and offensive skills in these YouTube compilations that we found. We thank the users who posted them.
It will be interesting to see if he decides to come to the NHL next season, and with which team he will land.
… and that is the Last Word.