Three games into the season for the New Jersey Devils and Swiss forward Damien Brunner is already red hot. Brunner has three goals and an assist so far, including a superb power play goal against Edmonton. Damien was brought on with a Professional Tryout in the preseason which led to the two year, $5 mil contract he inked. How Brunner only got a tryout from a team to start a season is beyond me. New Jersey had major questions entering the season regarding the scoring and power play production, mainly who would bring the puck into the offensive zone on power plays. In the second game of the season against the Islanders, Brunner recorded his first two goals as a Devil, which were very impressive. Against Edmonton, Brunner was bringing the puck into the offensive zone, creating many scoring chances which is exactly what he was brought on for. Three games isn’t enough to evaluate any player, and as well as he’s played, it will continue to be a watch-and-see deal.
This Devils forward core has changed immensely since last season. I won’t go into details for the sake of people still stung by Kovalchuk’s departure, but this is almost a completely different team than last season. Early in the season, all you can hope is that some players find chemistry, as they haven’t had much time to play off of each other. Brunner has played well with longtime Devil Patrik Elias, so that could possibly be an early pairing that lasts. The one thing that signing Brunner did was adding depth to the forwards. Sure, it’s not top-heavy, but it’s thick from top to bottom. Brunner is a potential 30 goal scorer that the Devils will appreciate in the long run. In the preseason, the Devils power play showcased Travis Zajac leading the puck into the offensive zone. In the first three games, the power play has looked sloppy but it will come together once the team settles down and has experience with playing with each other. If Damien can pull together the power play and lead the puck into the zone, that would be a serious help to the team.
I won’t put all my eggs into Brunner’s basket just yet, as only three games have been played so far. Sure, he has looked great, but I’m curious to see how this plays out over this 82 game season. If Brunner continues to score goals at a relatively fast pace, it would take a lot of weight off the shoulders of the other scorers on the team (Patrik Elias, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr, Adam Henrique). One of the Devils obvious weaknesses entering the season was speed and skill at forward, and Brunner could be a shot of adrenaline in this relatively old team. The inner Devils fan inside me goes nuts every time he’s touched the puck so far, just wondering what will happen next. It’s been nothing less than exciting. On the other hand, he realistically can’t stay on this pace of scoring, so let’s not go crazy. It’s a very, very long season.
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